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SM Red Cross Gears Up for Disaster Effort: extends hours to accept donations, blood, train volunteers

The Santa Monica Chapter of the American Red Cross has extended its hours and services in order to accommodate people who want to donate money, services or blood to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

By yesterday afternoon, the chapter had counted $167,000 in donations, and nearly 400 containers were still out and people were still streaming in with donations.

“Santa Monicans have been responding to the disaster with big hearts and extraordinary generosity,” said John Pacheco, the chapter’s executive director.

According to Pacheco, “The chapter has extended its weekday office hours from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. weekdays and will be open weekends from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to receive donations, answer questions and sign up volunteers.”

A donation drive-through has been scheduled at the chapter, 1450 11th Street, on Saturday, September 10, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. KTTV Fox 11, is co-sponsoring it with the chapter.

In the last week, 389 new volunteers have signed up, and about 250 of them have completed orientation and taken two required two courses — “Introduction to Disaster” and “Mass Care/Shelter Operations” that qualify them to work at a disaster site.

17 volunteers have been processed by the Red Cross Pacific service area and will leave as early as tomorrow (Wednesday, September 7) for assignments at Red Cross shelters and service centers throughout the Midwest and deep south. Another 25 volunteers are being processed and could be assigned and on their way by the weekend.

The next training at the chapter will be held Saturday, September 10, at 10 a.m. Interested people should call for information or to sign up.

Robert Chatman, director of disaster services here, said, “The Hurricane Katrina disaster area is very primitive with virtually no amenities. Volunteer housing will likely be in a public shelter. At the current time, power is off and water is scarce in most locales.”

The Red Cross is now establishing long term shelters away from the impacted area. “Volunteers may be assigned to work hurricane relief shelters almost anywhere, including Texas, Utah, Missouri, Oklahoma or Washington, DC. Plans are to establish shelters in other parts of the country, including southern California,” Chatman said.

Most of New Orleans is still under water. The devastation in communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama is extensive. Relief efforts including long term shelters for the hundreds of thousands whose homes have been destroyed could be spread out over months, if not years, according to Red Cross officials.

The Red Cross has been at work since before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. By Tuesday, it had set up 487 shelters in 16 states, housing 142,121 hurricane survivors. 5,600 volunteers have been deployed nationally, and the goal is to have 40,000 volunteers trained by November. It’s the largest mobilization of resources for a single natural disaster in Red Cross history.

Working with Southern Baptist churches and other organizations, Red Cross volunteers are serving 500,000 hot meals each day. Early on, federal officials asked the Red Cross to stay out of New Orleans in the belief that its presence there would encourage residents not to evacuate.

One local official said, “Despite the awful things you’ve seen, it’s even worse, as the media still can’t report the full scope of the tragedy. We desperately need your help to assist with food, water, and emergency supplies.”

Two volunteers from the Santa Monica chapter are already on the scene. Karen Donoho has been redeployed from Miami, Florida to Birmingham, Alabama and Christy Courtemanche is in Houston, Texas, where some New Orleans flood victims jave been taken. Additional Santa Monica volunteers will head to the disaster area in the days to come.

Donations can be made to the Red Cross in one of four ways: 1) Go to and donate online, 2) Call 1-800 HELP NOW. 3) Call the local Santa Monica chapter and donate via credit card, (310) 394-3773 4) Send or drop off a check to Santa Monica Red Cross, 1450 11th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Donors may allocate their contributions in three ways: “Disaster Relief” earmarks the funds likely entirely for Katrina, but possibly subsequent disaster relief efforts. “Katrina” designates money for Katrina. “Katrina” and a particular state (e.g. “Katrina – Louisiana”) will channel the money to a specific state.

People may also contribute through their businesses by setting up donation cans or organizing fund drives. The Red Cross, in conjunction with local businesses, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars with collection cans. Matching fund campaigns may also be set up.

Blood donors are also being sought. The Blood Mobile will be at the Santa Monica Red Cross on the following dates: Monday, September 12, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday, September 19, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday, September 26, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. s should call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE any weekday between 8AM and 9PM to schedule an appointment.

The Santa Monica chapter is also registering volunteers without prior disaster experience and will offer “fast track” disaster orientation classes over the next few weeks for people who wish to work in the disaster area..

Volunteers who wish to work in the disaster area will be needed for a minimum of nine days although a two or three-week period of availability is preferred. Air fares to and from the disaster locale and basic food and housing expenses are covered by the American Red Cross. Potential Katrina volunteers must be over eighteen years of age and in good health.

For additional information, or to inquire about other assistance, Phone: 310-394-3773 or online at

In the first 48 hours it was operational, more than 75,000 people looking for loved ones registered in the American Red Cross new “Family Linking Registry.” Pleasedirect inquires to 1-877-LOVED-1S (877-568-3317) or

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