12/28/05 — Red Cross: County sent $243,229 to help victims

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Red Cross: County sent $243,229 to help victims

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 28, 2005 1:51 PM

With 26 named storms, 13 of which were hurricanes, 2005 was a busy year for the Wayne County chapter of the American Red Cross, officials said.

The most costly disaster was Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29. "Hurricane Katrina caused everybody to reconfigure everything with respect to disaster response," said Chuck Waller, Red Cross director. "You look at the breadth and depth of that storm alone, impacting 90,000 square miles."

He said there has never been a storm in the Red Cross' 125-year disaster response history that affected so large an area and so many people.

He compared Katrina to Hurricane Andrew, which had been the organization's biggest disaster response effort. Andrew cost $130 million.

"Katrina is going to surpass $2 billion," Waller said. "That's 16 times the worst we've ever seen, including Andrew."

The Wayne County chapter has collected $243,229 for total hurricane help for 2005 as of Dec. 9, Waller said. That includes donations that were made online and those that were mailed into the chapter.

Teresa Williams, disaster services chairman for the chapter, said 23 Wayne County volunteers were sent to Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. Another 80 were sent to help Hurricane Ophelia victims. Three went to Florida for Hurricane Wilma and a handful were dispatched to Texas for Hurricane Rita.

Some went twice. Some stayed two weeks; others stayed up to six weeks, she said.

The volunteers provided various services including records and reports, mass care (working in shelters or on the ERVs), mental health, transportation.

The chapter also assisted 70 evacuee families, some with one in the family, others with up to five members, Mrs. Williams said. Based on the size of the family, each received a Red Cross assistance card to help buy personal items, clothing, food and gas.

"People do not realize the impact that Katrina, which happened more than 600 miles away, had on our chapter here," Waller said. "We had to recruit volunteers to go help. We had to train a bunch of people to go help.

"We had evacuees in here we had to help. Our emergency response vehicle left Aug. 29 and is still gone. The ERV is the mobile feeding unit."

But even with so much work to do so far away, that didn't mean the Red Cross could stop its work at home.

"Not only did we do that but we still responded to local fire calls, still collected blood and still did armed forces emergency calls," Waller said. "We still did all the other things that we normally do with even with this big gorilla (Katrina) on our back."

Waller praised Wayne County people who contributed their time and money and sent help to people they didn't even know.