Vermonters pitching in to help Katrina victims
BARRE – Vermonters are doing their part to aid in disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which turned tens of thousands on the Gulf Coast into refugees in their own hometowns.
A nationwide appeal has gone out from the American Red Cross for more volunteers to pass out foodstuffs and set up temporary shelters, and Vermonters are answering the call.
The Central Vermont and New Hampshire Chapter of the Red Cross is hosting training sessions in Rutland for new volunteers for the next two weekends. Kevin White, the Director of Emergency Services for the Red Cross Central Vermont Chapter, said able-bodied volunteers will be trained in CPR and first aid. Volunteers will ultimately be sent to Houston, Texas and then deployed to an area on the Gulf Coast most in need of support.
"Today we've probably taken between 70 and 80 calls from people who said 'I want to come and help'," White said.
White said the conditions for volunteers along the Gulf Coast are difficult and uncertain. The heat, humidity and lack of fresh running water are immediate concerns not just for victims, but for any volunteers.
"They are taking on volunteers who can stand the rigors. Some of the volunteers are sleeping on the floor. They don't want people to go down there and become casualties themselves. The people who aren't able to withstand those difficulties are probably better suited to stay here and help out," White said. "We've had mental health care workers and doctors offer to volunteer, but we aren't recruiting those people at this time. We really need people to had out food and set up shelters."
The Central Vermont Red Cross currently has volunteers in Louisiana who were deployed to Pensacola, Fla., but when the hurricane hit Louisiana, and Mississippi, they were re-routed to the areas worst hit. A Vermont Red Cross emergency services vehicle is currently on-route to Louisiana, White said.
Additionally, two Barre organizations have joined forces to send aid to the gulf coast.
The Salvation Army in Barre has teamed up with radio stations Froggy 100.9 and WORK-FM to collect money for Katrina victims at the Berlin Burger King parking lot for two days.
Like the Red Cross, The Salvation Army is intent on getting food and water to those suffering from Katrina.
The Salvation Army canteen trucks are providing over 400 hot meals a day to storm victims.
J.D. Green, a morning DJ for Froggy 100.9, said the response to on-air requests for donations around Central Vermont has been encouraging.
"We've been swamped with calls. We've got someone down there for 24 hours. It's two 12-hour shifts from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m." said Green.
Green said area businesses like Formula Ford Truckland and Manosh Hardwood have also made donations to the Salvation Army.
"There have been a lot of businesses doing matching challenges," said Captain Louis Patrick of the Barre Salvation Army.
Patrick said a $100 donation to The Salvation Army will feed a family of four for two days, provide two cases of drinking water and one household clean-up kit, containing brooms, mops, buckets, and cleaning supplies.
Patrick estimated by about 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, the Salvation Army had collected around $4,000. "All of that money goes to the victims of Katrina. Nothing stays in Barre," he said.
"It's been a fantastic turnout. We've seen little kids dropping money in, adults dropping money in. Probably people who can't afford it are dropping money in. We've been truly blessed by the tremendous support," he said.
Both the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army need monetary donations. They have no way of organizing donations of food or clothing at this time.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund call 1-800-HELP-NOW or visit the Web site www.redcross.org. For disaster relief training contact your local office for times and dates. (Rutland: (802) 773-9159, Hartford: (802) 295-3635, Berlin: (802) 223-3701.
The Salvation Army will be at the Berlin Burger King from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
Donations can be sent to Salvation Army, P.O. Box 375, Barre, VT 05641, write "Katrina" on the check.
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