POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Families who lost everything after a tornado tore through hundreds of miles in Kentucky and surrounding states will be given support from Polk County-based Christian Disaster Response.

“The scope of it shocked me. I’ve been to major disasters but when I saw how bad it was and they started talking about the death toll – I knew that toll was gonna climb,” said Dr. Ron Patterson, co-founder and executive director of Christian Disaster Response.

For decades, Dr. Patterson’s organization has traveled the globe to aid communities ravaged by natural disasters.

He estimates his organization’s emergency response phase in Kentucky and surrounding states will cost $300,00 – $400,000.

The first priority is deploying 20-30 volunteers, trained in need-assessment, to hand out $100 gift cards to people in need.

“If there are three people in the family they’ll get three of these. If there are five, they get five of them. Just one person – they get one. This puts money in their pocket immediately and can help them with the things they need right now,” said Dr. Patterson.

Patterson points out assistance from governmental entities can take time.

“There’s a delay in that aid getting to the people. That’s where Christian Disaster Response comes in and other faith based groups. We’ll assist them as quick as possible,” he said.

One key part of Christian Disaster Response work involves “Gift of the Heart” kits, specialized collections of items for people who lost basic supplies.

While Dr. Patterson encourages people to gather and assemble the kits, his organization is not yet accepting them.

For one, they cannot ship kits to that area right now.

“People are going to need them a little later, not right now. What are they gonna do with a food staple kit right now if they don’t have a way to cook?”he said.

Christian Disaster Response is still devising its deployment plan over the next few days and needs volunteers.

To learn about the next training seminar, email ronpatterson@cdresponce.org or visit their website.

To donate money to Christian Disaster Response, visit their website or you can donate by mail at

P.O. BOX 3339