By Liz Feldman
Volunteers with the Maryland-based organization, Heroes For The Homeland, are on their way to Oklahoma to bring needed supplies and provide assistance to first responders helping tornado victims.
At last count, 13 people were killed in the powerful tornadoes that struck Friday night near Oklahoma City.
The volunteers gathered at the Fraternal Order of Police 89 parking lot in Upper Marlboro Sunday morning and loaded up four trucks with about 15 thousand pounds of supplies. The supplies were collected over the past few days.
The trucks are traveling about 1,300 miles and after 20 hours on the road, they expect to arrive in Oklahoma on Monday morning.
The Maryland volunteers are themselves first responders from Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Heroes For The Homeland President, Chris Johnson, is a law enforcement officer in the state of Maryland. He says his group's mission is to help first responders who are providing assistance to the communities affected by a disaster.
"We are all first responders, we know what it is like to help the community and leave your family. Our goal is to help the first responders, so they can help the community faster. We then want to turn our attention to the community," Johnson said.
Once Johnson and his volunteers arrive in Oklahoma, and deliver their supplies, they plan to stay for about three days, and help with the cleanup.
Heroes For The Homeland is a fairly new non-profit organization. Johnson says another deadly tornado a couple of years ago inspired him to act.
"I saw what happened in Joplin, Missouri in 2011, an EF5 tornado hit then, the city was decimated, and I started thinking about putting a group together to help," Johnson said.
Johnson's group was officially formed last October. Volunteers quickly sprang into action. They helped deliver supplies and provided assistance to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Johnson is hoping his group will grow in the coming years.
"I would like to expand and respond quickly. We're looking for corporate sponsorship. We need a place to store our equipment, so we can deploy faster," Johnson said.
Heroes For The Homeland hopes the D.C. community will rally around its organization and its mission.
The group has a website where people can donate.