Search efforts for a missing Pensacola 12-year-old increased in intensity and urgency Saturday, as community volunteers flooded Ferry Pass and officials offered a $20,000 reward for information on her whereabouts.
Naomi Jones was last seen Wednesday afternoon near her home at the Aspen Village Apartments on East Johnson Avenue in Pensacola.
Since Thursday, hundreds of law enforcement officials, search and rescue groups and concerned citizens have been beating the bushes, combing the streets and spreading the word of Naomi's disappearance to anyone who would listen.
On Saturday morning, Olive Baptist Church — the headquarters for community search efforts — hummed with activity.
Coordinators from the KlaasKids Foundation buzzed between groups of volunteers, giving assignments and briefings on how to safely, effectively and thoroughly conduct a search operation.
Kathleen Thornhill waited eagerly in the church lobby to find out what her search zone would be.
"I'm here to find that baby," she said. "I'm a mother, and I'm a grandmother, and she's somebody's baby."
Thornhill added she had 11 grandchildren, and if any of them went missing, "I'd want all this to go on."
Karen Drummond volunteered for one of the more taxing search zones in a mix of residential housing, thick woods and marshland. Together with a team of friends and strangers, she spent several hours weaving through brambled bushes, peeking under trash can lids and marking anything that seemed like it could be related to the case.
“I'm here to find that baby. I'm a mother, and I'm a grandmother, and she's somebody's baby.”
Kathleen Thornhill, volunteer
She said Naomi's uncle stopped her, by chance, on Thursday night and handed her a flyer with information on his missing niece.
"I just felt compelled to follow up with that, so I came out today," she explained.
The KlaasKids Foundation, a national search and rescue organization with headquarters in Pensacola, headed up the local volunteer efforts. The organization stopped sending out community searches at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in order to start following up on locations of interest marked by volunteers and weeding through all the information they brought back.
Brad Dennis, director of search operations, said the pause didn't mean search efforts had stopped. Dennis said the Escambia County Sheriff's Ofice, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI, the Bay County Sheriff's Office, Escambia Search and Rescue, Gulf Coast Search and Recovery and numerous other groups would remain in the field throughout the weekend.
"We want our community to know how grateful we are for everything they are doing," Dennis said. "To see our community respond the way it has has been tremendous."
Murray said numerous restaurants, businesses and citizens provided food, water and supplies.
"(Naomi's) classmates were coming in, 11, 12 years old, and saying, 'I want to help,'" Murray said. "That's the kind of response it's been."
While KlaasKids pours through the information and locations of interest highlighted by the community, Dennis asked the community to use Sunday as a day of prayer for Naomi and her family.
He said KlaasKids would announce on its Facebook page when and if community search efforts will resume Monday.