Update: Fourth volunteer check-in site to open in Vilonia.

And more of what volunteers should expect

A fourth Volunteer Resource Center will be open in Vilonia on Saturday “[d]ue to the overwhelmingly positive response to Faulkner County’s call for debris removal volunteers,” according to a news release issued by Team Rubicon Friday night.


This fourth Volunteer Resource Center (VRC) will be at First Baptist Church at 1206 Main Street (Highway 64, east of Highway 107 — NOTE: Google Maps shows it to be west of highway 107, but this is incorrect).


Individual and group volunteers “arriving from the east along Highway 64 and from the south along Highway 107 are encouraged” to check in at the First Baptist Church VRC “to ease the strain on traffic flow though downtown Vilonia, as well as [Vilonia’s] … Beryl Baptist Church site,” the release reads.


The other Team Rubicon VRCs are:

• In Conway at Home Depot in the Conway Commons shopping center on Elsinger Boulevard off I-40 Exit 127 in Conway (the entrance to the shopping center is about a quarter mile east of Exit 127 on East Oak Street);

• In Vilonia at Beryl Baptist Church at 873 Highway 64, about two miles west of the damage area in downtown Vilonia (which has been a volunteer check-in area this week);

• And in Mayflower at the former Mayflower Outdoors building at 57 Interstate Drive. This VRC is on the road that runs along the east side of I-40 that a year ago was a main staging area for the Pegasus Pipeline oil spill cleanup operation.

What Team Rubicon is bringing to the damage areas of Sunday's tornado is not a “takeover," of the volunteer relief effort, the team's public information officer Wes Craiglow said on Friday.

The members of Team Rubicon appreciate the work that any number of church and business and school groups and groups of friends have done as volunteer relief workers since Sunday's tornado. They also appreciate the organizational structures that have, every day since Monday morning, sent volunteer workers where they have been needed, Craiglow said.  

The job of cleaning up the tornado's 24-mile-long path — the middle of which is an unbroken core of devastation ranging from 250 to 1,000 feet wide in which almost no manmade wall stands — is enormous. The job of organizing this disaster's cleanup and relief effort is also enormous. 

It is the job of organizing the cleanup and relief effort that Team Rubicon is taking up, and they are calling it Operation Rising Eagle (click this link to make a donation). The many groups that have taken it on themselves to organize the volunteer response so far should keep doing what they're doing and keep getting people together to help. But all volunteer workers will be checking in with Team Rubicon as of 8 a.m. Saturday. The county government has delegated this responsibility to them, and Team Rubicon is working under the county to organize the volunteer effort.

Team Rubicon will be checking in groups of volunteers, registering and equipping them, and either designating them as teams or assigning them to teams or breaking them into teams. Individual volunteers should expect to be assigned to teams. These teams will be given tasks in the form of work orders, and their progress will be tracked to completion. Workers and teams will be accountable for seeing their jobs through.

Not all of the jobs involve heavy lifting, but most do. Volunteers who check in with Team Rubicon "wearing shorts and flip-flops," Craiglow said on Friday, will be sent away to put on boots and pants if they want to come back.

Volunteers should bring work gloves and eye and ear protection if they have them. If they don't, these will be provided at the VRCs. Transportation to the damage areas will be available for volunteers who want it.

On Saturday, a massive volunteer effort is expected, with thousands of volunteers arriving from all over Arkansas and surrounding states. But it will not be enough. The volunteer cleanup and recovery effort will take a long time. Anyone who wants to avoid crowds and long check-in lines will be needed and welcome at the damage areas next week, and for however long volunteers are needed.


Probably the local roads in and to the damage areas, as well as Team Rubicon’s VRC services, will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of volunteers forecasted for today and Sunday — and this is in addition to thousands arriving for Toad Suck Daze, Craiglow said. "Everyone in Faulkner County should be prepared for large crowds and inevitable delays. Please apply patience during throughout day."


Team Rubicon describes itself in the release as a veterans organization that "unites the skills and experience of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams ... [and offer] veterans a chance to continue their service by helping and empowering those afflicted by disasters, and also themselves."