As one official put it, “2005 turned out to be a year of disasters and overwhelming generosity thanks to the good citizens of Santa Monica who contributed millions of dollars to disaster relief.”
When the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed an estimated 275,000 people and destroyed billions of dollars in property in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and other countries bordering the Indian Ocean, contributions poured into the American Red Cross of Santa Monica
Ultimately, area residents’ tsunami disaster relief donations totaled nearly $1.9 million — $699,000 from direct gifts to the chapter and $1.2-million via a web site and toll free phone lines operated by the national American Red Cross from Santa Monica residents.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into Gulf Coast devastating parts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana in late summer, forcing thousands of people to move out of the disaster areas.
“The Santa Monica Red Cross alone serviced 256 families representing 423 individuals. Seventy-nine families were housed in hotels and motels while many others found accommodations with friends and families,” said Robert Chatman, Director of Disaster Services.
“The families living in hotels and motels are for the most part receiving financial assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will continue to do so through February 7, 2006. Some families have found more permanent housing here. An estimated couple dozen school age children from the disaster areas are enrolled in Santa Monica schools,” Chatman added.
The Santa Monica Red Cross has disbursed nearly $100,000 in direct financial aid and paid services to displaced persons who applied for help in Santa Monica.
According to the Pacific Service Region of the American Red Cross, over 2700 displaced families and individuals received services from the Red Cross and local churches in Los Angeles County in the months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the South.
The Santa Monica chapter also gave a series of basic Red Cross disaster relief classes for people wishing to volunteer in the disaster area.
According to Chatman, “1300 persons completed courses immediately after Katrina and Rita.”
Over 90 trained volunteers were sent from the Santa Monica chapter into the disaster theater. “Volunteers were deployed for a minimum of two weeks in a number of Southern states and worked in food services, shelter management, logistics, family service, public relations and other activities,” Chatman said.
“For hurricane relief, the Santa Monica chapter raised $1.2 million directly and another $1.3 million was donated through the American Red Cross web site and toll free lines from persons living in Santa Monica zip codes,” said chapter Executive Director John Pacheco. Nationally, the American Red Cross raised and spent over $1.8-billion.
“The total of the contributions to both of these disasters from just Santa Monica is an amazing $4.4 million,” Pacheco said.
In addition to contributions to the Red Cross, churches and charitable organizations also raised money and goods for Hurricane victims, and school children, civic groups and the City of Santa Monica provided financial aid, equipment and services to organizations and municipalities on the Gulf including New Orleans.
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of people and companies in the Santa Monica area,” said Pacheco. “Although our chapter is a relatively small in size, our contributions to both the tsunami and hurricane disaster relief efforts have attracted national recognition as far as how much help we provided. And, it is all because of the generosity of the citizens of this community.”The American Red Cross of Santa Monica is a publicly supported, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides health and safety education, youth services, CPR and first aid training, disaster awareness and disaster relief efforts. For information contact the American Red Cross, 1450 11th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Phone (310) 394-3773 or fax (310) 451-3226 during normal business hours or go to www.redcrossofsantamonica.org.