OKC Church Closes Community Shelter During Tornado Season - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

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Church In The Village Closes Community Shelter During Tornado Season

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When the tornado sirens roar, people come running to the Village United Methodist Church. When the tornado sirens roar, people come running to the Village United Methodist Church.
THE VILLAGE, Oklahoma -

Tornado season is closing in, and for one community, a once welcomed place to shelter will not open to the public.

When the tornado sirens roar, people come running to the Village United Methodist Church.

"I've had 700 and to 800 people show up, panicked people, with their dogs, ice chests, personal belongings, that kind of thing," said Pastor Rik Marion.

Hundreds more than he can handle. According to Marion, the basement of the VUMC should only hold about 400 people.

"Somebody's pounding on the door let us in, it's hard to say, ‘no, I'm sorry, we're filled up,'" he said. "Our concern recently has been with safety.

Volunteer George Burton says on storm days, people are crammed in every crevice of the basement, from closets to boiler rooms.

"I'm willing to come up and help," said Burton. "But we need some other people helping. We need someone with authority."

That's why the church asked the City of The Village to provide a police officer or fireman to help with crowd control, but Marion said the city wasn't able to do that, due to the officers needed on the streets during the storms. So, the church made the decision to close the shelter.

"It doesn't feel real good," Marion said. "We feel like we're here to help The Village. Frankly, I don't know what else could be done as far as the shelter goes, where people might go."

Some volunteers from the church do help out, but only about 15 to 20. Marion said with the number of people coming to the church for shelter, he would need 50 to 100 volunteers. He said even then, his staff and volunteers aren't equipped to confront or deny entry to those who may bring in uncaged pets, alcoholic beverages or licensed firearms. He said even the parking lot can't be supervised effectively.

"[They're] driving up, parking all over the place, double parking in the grass," Marion said. "We felt like we needed some help with security."

According to the church, city officials have suggested the church hire an off-duty police officer and then submit those costs to the city for reimbursement, however, the church says finding officers, when needed, is too great of liability.

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