Karen Wicker at Rotary MeetingIt’s been a tough week for Oklahoma. But despite massive destruction of an EF5 tornado, citizens have rallied together to show support and compassion like never before.

Among those first to respond was the American Red Cross, which in essence extended a huge hug to Oklahomans whose lives would be forever changed.

That’s why it was difficult to read newspaper and social media sites the following day.

Headlines touted donations texted to the Red Cross may not stay in Oklahoma. While the information at that time was technically accurate, the story was misleading and caused unnecessary confusion with donors and potential donors. Unfortunately, it’s the storm victims who may have suffered most due to this negative chatter.

The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is the national safety net for the American public. When a disaster hits, it protects the community at risk, providing on-the-ground support within minutes. Without this fund, Oklahoma storm victims would still be waiting for donations to be collected before seeking shelter, a hot meal or counseling.

But due to local outcry and the magnitude of the storm, the Red Cross reversed its decision and lifted restrictions on texting dollars. One-hundred percent of funds given through texting since May 20 will help with local storm recovery. Donations through text will remain in Oklahoma until further notice.

Regardless of policy, the Red Cross did not hesitate to help Oklahomans in our greatest time of need, thanks to citizens around the world who previously donated via text. Their contributions helped with temporary shelters, meals to survivors and first responders, distribution of much-needed relief items and hygiene kits, and pressing health and mental health needs.

I’m personally thankful for those who give to the Red Cross with no strings attached. It allows the organization to remain nimble, which has earned the nonprofit an outstanding reputation for stewardship of resources, including low administrative costs to ensure dollars are efficiently used.

Just ask survivors of the Joplin tornado, the Haiti earthquake or the California wildfires. When concerned citizens across America texted the Red Cross to donate to those tragedies, resources were evenly distributed and wisely used.

Maybe that’s why many prominent Oklahomans encourage giving to the Red Cross. Who doesn’t love the generosity of NBA superstar Kevin Durant? He donated $1 million within hours of the storm’s destruction – a testament to the trust Oklahomans have for the work and results of this reputable organization.

Yes, Oklahoma is a giving state. But cleanup and restoration will likely take weeks, months, perhaps years. What we’ve seen this past week in Oklahoma confirms what people around the nation know to be true.

The Red Cross is reliable, ready and resilient. It will leverage resources nationally to commit locally for the duration of healing.

Wicker, president of Oklahoma City-based Candor Public Relations, is a member of the board of the American Red Cross Oklahoma Chapter.