OKLAHOMA CITY -- A group of local businesses have launched HelpingOklahoma.org, an online auction site dedicated to raising funds for those affected by the May 24, 2011, tornadoes. All funds collected through the site will be donated to the American Red Cross of Central Oklahoma's Local Disaster Relief Fund.
The brainchild of Dan Gordon, Samuel Gordon Jewelers, HelpingOklahoma.org was designed to connect people and businesses with individuals in need. The core function of the site is the online auction portion. Local businesses or individuals submit donated products or services to the site and any registered user can bid on the item. All the monies raised will go directly to the Red Cross. The online auctions range from a few days to two weeks, depending on the value of the item.
"After the storms went through on May 24, I tweeted about how it would be cool if local Oklahoma City businesses pulled together to create something like this," said Gordon.
Gordon's tweet spurred several other local businesses to jump on board, including Oklahoma Employees Credit Union (OECU), who has been communicating about the site and auction through its Twitter and Facebook accounts, and Cooper Digital Marketing, who donated design and administrative time in developing the site. The three entities have taken the lead in soliciting, listing and communicating about the site.
"Within 48 hours after the tornados, our branches were overwhelmed with donations from the community," said Scott Bell, vice president of operations, OECU. "But now the needs have changed. Families need specific items, whether it's a refrigerator, a new fence, or someone to volunteer their time. That's the great thing about the message board – it connects people who have a specific need with people who can help them."
HelpingOklahoma.org features a message board intended to facilitate volunteer efforts or in-kind donations. Those needing volunteer help related to disaster relief efforts can post that information on the message board; people who are able to help can then reply to the request to need that need. The message board can also serve as a way for people to post in-kind needs, such as transportation or household needs.
"The message board function really is meant to be where those who 'have' and those who 'need' can come together," said Gordon.
To use either the online auction or the message board on the site, visitors are required to register. There is no cost to use any portion of the site.
"The goal here is to raise funds for the Red Cross," Gordon said. "We want to help our neighbors, plain and simple. And this is how we've opted to do it."