RED OAK — Volunteers are being organized for short and long term work in Ellis County to recover from a tornado that struck Saturday night.

Hundreds of people packed the Eastridge Baptist Church on Sunday afternoon to find out how they could help their neighbors and community members. An estimated 101 homes were either damaged or destroyed between western Waxahachie, Midlothian, Glenn Heights and Ovilla after a tornado struck 17 square miles Saturday night.

Ellis Christian Disaster Relief volunteer director Berry Bensmiller told them 50 volunteers were being sent out Sunday afternoon to work until dark helping residents who had just been allowed back into their homes find items in what was left of their home.

Monday morning, a large number of volunteers will be needed to convert a former middle school, located at 102 Live Oak Street in Red Oak, to an elementary school campus to house students and staff who will not be able to attend Donald T. Shields Elementary School that was damaged in the tornado, he said.

Volunteers will begin working at 7 a.m. to convert the campus and then begin moving the elementary school supplies over to the new building when it is complete, he said. Volunteers are encouraged to bring trucks, trailers and tools for any skills they have.

No donations are needed at this time, Bensmiller said. Most of the families affected by the tornado have insurance that will help them replace items. Those who do not are able to set up a case with the American Red Cross who will help fill their needs, which is about six families at this time, he said. However, those cases should have access to emergency funds through the government soon, he said.

Those wanting to volunteer for future efforts need to stay connected to the Ellis County Emergency management Facebook page, he said, where future events will be posted.

While the immediate response is wonderful, people need to remember the need for volunteers will not be over in a few weeks, said Marla Bearden, disaster recovery specialist with Texas Baptists. It will take months to clear all the damage, she said. Those interested in volunteering longterm should contact the organization through their website or by phone at 888-244-9400, Bearden said.

Volunteers and residents are encouraged not to try to capture lose animals, Bensmiller said. Many pets that escaped the storms are afraid and could be dangerous if cornered, he explained.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email Follow her on Facebook at or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.