Reaching out to Greensburg
Once again, the Baldwin City and Baker University community is reaching out to help those touched by natural disaster following the devastating tornado Friday in Greensburg.
The Baldwin City Cares Foundation, which was established several years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has $2,500 to offer and hopes residents will donate more. The local Rotary Club has established a fund for people to donate to and are also sponsoring trash bag drop-off areas. Baker is setting up donation jars around campus and will match what's raised up to $1,000.
"The foundation is meeting Monday to decide what to do with the money, but it needs to go to Greensburg," said Ken Wagner, president of the foundation. "It's devastating what happened there. This is about Kansans helping Kansans. Someday, this could happen here. We'll be glad we did this.
"We have an account at Baldwin State Bank and if people want to contribute to the people of Greensburg, we would encourage that," said Wagner.
The Rotary Club has similar sentiment.
"The Baldwin City Rotary Club is providing the opportunity to people that want to contribute to help the Greensburg community in this great time of need," said Cynthia Rothwell, president of the Rotary Club. "We are so moved by the positive spirit that the people in Greensburg are demonstrating and how their words and spirits seem to be filled not with despair, but with gratitude to be alive. We like to think that is the spirit of the Kansans.
"With that same warm, valiant and kind spirit that characterizes the people in Kansas, we encourage you to join us to help rebuild not just the town structure, but the community," said Rothwell.
Monetary contributions can be made to Kansas State Bank, with checks made payable to the Baldwin City Rotary Club, with Greensburg written in the memo area. No amount is too small, she said. The club is also gathering trash bags for the massive clean-up needed in the western Kansas town that had 95 percent of its buildings destroyed by the F5 tornado with winds topping the 200 mph level.
Trash bags can be dropped off at Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center, Baldwin High School, Baldwin City Market and Kansas State Bank, she said.
"Unfortunately, there is an awful lot of picking up to do," Rothwell said of the Greensburg area. "The district is encouraging money donations, but decided to give this option, too. Some people prefer to donate goods better than money."
As for Baker's efforts, spokesman Steve Rottinghaus said the donation jars will be placed at the Wildcat Cafe, the mailroom at Constant Hall, the Student Academic Services office on the lower level of the library and Mabee Hall 310. The money raised, along with Baker's $1,000 match, will be sent through the Methodist Conference to benefit the Greensburg community.
"Several of our students, faculty and staff were raised in towns similar to Greensburg and want to help the community rebuild," said Rottinghaus.
Rothwell said the club would go this route this week, but could change next week.
"Depending on the events, we might change next week to ask for other items," she said. "I am sure they are finding it hard to assess the needs and the order in which to ask for them."
Two years ago, Baldwin residents gave a similar response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. This time, it's closer to home.
Of course, there are several statewide efforts that Baldwin City residents can contribute to. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army are providing services and need donations. The Red Cross can be reached at 800-REDCROSS and the Salvation Army at 800-SAL-ARMY. See additional information on page A-?
State Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, hopes that the community will offer whatever help is needed.
"I would encourage people to keep the Greensburg folks in their thoughts and prayers and to make contributions to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army," said Holland.
Helping Greensburg was also a topic at Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting.
"Has there been any requests, any discussion by staff about how cities can help out?" said Wagner, who was installed that evening as the newest member of the council.
"When requests come out, we'll see what we can do," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "The League (of Municipalities) is trying to coordinate efforts."
"I know we're a long way from Greensburg, but it really hits close to home to see a town devastated like that," said Wagner.
"We need to help those people out," said Council Member Tony Brown.
President George W. Bush toured the devastation Wednesday. Gov. Kathleen Sebilius and other state leaders were there Monday.
The tornado killed at least nine people in Greensburg and another in nearby Pratt County. Numerous people were also hospitalized and many of them remain in critical and serious condition.
Baldwin City also had an immediate representative there in the aftermath of the Greensburg tornado. City building inspector Tina Rakes is a member of the statewide team that responds to such disasters.
"Tina went to Greensburg as part of the disaster inspection team," said Dingman. "It was devastating."
Rakes was at a conference in Washington, D.C., this week and unavailable for comment. The Signal hopes to do a follow story next week on Rakes and what it was like to be in Greensburg.