The devastation and heartbreak seen this week in Oklahoma was something all too familiar for Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles and his family.
Voyles and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, as well as members of the Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team stopped by the San Tan Valley Wal-Mart on Wednesday afternoon to pick up supplies to deliver to Moore, Okla., to help Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel distribute them to families affected by the tornadoes that ripped apart the town on Monday.
The Pinal County officials are preparing to send supplies, manpower and more to assist in the cleanup of the devastated areas in and around Moore.
Babeu said his office purchased 15 Stihl chainsaws, extra arms and 30 chains to assist in the cleanup efforts, with all of the supplies purchased with seized criminal money. Those purchases were in addition to all the supplies donated from Wal-Mart.
Voyles told the small group in the Wal-Mart garden center he planned to spend the Memorial Day weekend visiting relatives in Texas but decided to help the people of Moore instead. In Mississippi just a few years ago, Voyles’ family farm was hit by a tornado and all he remembers about that time is the amount of support and aid that they received from people all over the country.
“Me and my brothers are going to go out to Oklahoma and pay it forward and help these people,” Voyles said. “For some of the people from Mississippi, it’s still too personal to go out, but they will help with money and supplies.
“This is just paying it forward from my perspective. This is all out of pocket from me.”
Whetsel requested aid from policing agencies across the United States to assist in the cleanup efforts after tornadoes wiped out whole neighborhoods. The sheriff asked for a variety of supplies including chainsaws, wipes, water and much more, including any volunteers willing to help.
Babeu told Whetsel that in addition to sending supplies his office wants to send manpower as well.
“Why don’t we send a couple of our highly trained search and rescue guys who are here,” Babeu said.
“These guys are not only trained in search and rescue, they have enhanced first aid, response and some medical training. And they are handy with a chainsaw.
“I can only imagine the families and imagine if you have a third-grader who is taken from you. Just keep them in your prayers.”
Voyles said banners signed by members of the Pinal County community also will be given to Oklahoma County residents.