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Local Red Cross Continues Assistance Efforts: helps hurricane evacues relocate, trains and deploys volunteers, raises nearly $2 million

The Santa Monica chapter of the Red Cross reported Monday that it has thus far given aid and services to 246 people who have relocated to the Santa Monica area from the deep South in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In addition, it hosted representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who were here for four days last week, assisting hurricane victims with their long-term recovery plans.

“FEMA representatives met with many of the individuals who had fled the hurricanes and their aftermath and came to the Santa Monica area,” said chapter executive director, John Pacheco. “Long term housing support, applications for low interest Small Business Administration loans and other forms of assistance are all available to displaced persons for their recovery in as much as the emergency services support roll of the Red Cross is nearing an end.”

The Santa Monica Red Cross has provided $100,000 in direct financial to the displaced persons for short-term lodging, food, clothing and medicine.

By Monday, October 24, the Santa Monica chapter had raised $1,003,758 for hurricanes Katrina and Rita relief. In addition, people from Santa Monica have pledged or donated nearly $800,000 more, via phone and email.

“Santa Monicans have generously donated nearly two million dollars to the American Red Cross hurricane relief effort alone. When donations to other non-profits and charities are added it proves that Santa Monicans have huge hearts and unmatched generosity,” says Pacheco.

In addition to raising money and assisting displaced people, the local chapter has deployed 86 volunteers to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita disaster relief locations in Florida. Mississippi and Alabama, specifically on the Gulf Coast area and in Texas and Louisiana where the majority of Red Cross shelters and service centers are or have been located.

Many of the volunteers have served two or three weeks on-scene and have returned, while others are still on the job. More than 1,000 volunteers have signed up with the local chapter since Katrina swept over the deep South on September 29th.

Volunteer experiences in the disaster zones have varied widely – from working in the relative comfort of disaster operation headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama or Houston, Texas to the harrowing conditions on the Gulf Coast. Jobs and duties ranged from assisting in shelters, to working in logistics, driving Emergency Response Vehicles, doing remote feeding and client assistance, to communications, public relations, data processing and administrative duties.

Volunteer training is continuing, although the demand for volunteers has slackened, and people are still being sent into the deep South, Florida and Texas for disaster relief assignments. Over the weekend, three volunteers were deployed to Montgomery, Alabama and Orlando, Florida.

The Red Cross began disaster relief preparations days before Wilma made landfall in Florida. Dozens of shelters are either on standby or already open and kitchens are operating with 360,000 meals initially prepared and ready to serve.

Emergency Operations Centers in Orlando and other locations have been activated and volunteers are being called in to assist in relief operations. Donations for Hurricane Wilma disaster relief are being accepted at the Santa Monica Red Cross or on-line at www.redcross.org

Those wanting to volunteer in the disaster zone can still call the Santa Monica Red Cross at (310) 394-3773, or visit www.redcrossofsantamonica.org to sign up for the required volunteer training coursework. Local volunteers are still needed for help in the Santa Monica chapter offices working directly with clients, answering phones, doing data entry, and providing support where needed.

People who need assistance can drop by the American Red Cross of Santa Monica, 1450 11th Street (at Broadway), Santa Monica, CA 90401 or phone: (310) 394-3773. For the Hurricane Katrina information Hotline, call: (866) 733-5010.Go online at www.redcrossofsantamonica.org. Donate online at the national American Red Cross’s website at www.redcross.org. Or, Call 1-800-HELP-NOW. In Spanish: www.cruzrojaamericana.org.

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