The Norman Transcript

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June 16, 2013

Tweeting through the tornado

NORMAN — Serve Moore isn’t like other relief organizations working to clear away the rubble in tornado-stricken Cleveland County. It isn’t a government-registered nonprofit group.

It has no billboards or TV commercials. In fact, before the May 20 tornado it didn’t even exist.

Despite this, it has raised thousands of volunteers and won the cooperation of the Moore city government, the Red Cross and FEMA. The secret? Serve Moore knows how to tweet.

“We wouldn’t be here without social media,” said Leah Dees, a volunteer from Moore Community Church. “It’s been essential in getting us what we need, be it goods or volunteers. At the community center, there was a lady who needed a car seat for her baby. I posted online, ‘Can anyone get me a car seat today?’ and, within three hours, this lady had a car seat.

Serve Moore began when area churches gathered in the aftermath of the tornado and asked themselves how they could contribute. The Moore Parks and Recreation Department contacted the congregation of churches and asked them to gather volunteers to clean up the town’s badly damaged cemetery.

They sent out a tweet: “Looking for 500 volunteers tomorrow in Moore.”

The following morning, around 3,000 people showed up, said volunteer coordinator Tyler Fisher, and the cemetery was cleaned.

Chris Fox, communications director for Moore Community Church, is one of the operators of Serve Moore’s Twitter account and website.

It’s his job to tell the public what goods need to be donated, to inform volunteers of hazards and to address the outside world on behalf of the beleaguered community.

Though Fox prefers Facebook for communicating with his church, Twitter is better-suited to the relief effort, he said.

“The natural function of Facebook is community and connectivity, but we don’t have the time or the resources to generate the level of content necessary to make a Facebook page work,” Fox said. “Twitter’s audience is expectant of bare-bones information. You say what you have to say in 140 characters and then you get out.”

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