Area residents offer help to victims of hurricane
Efforts by the American Red Cross to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina surpass those of the Oklahoma City bombing or the tsunami that ravaged southeast Asia late last year.
In fact, said a spokesperson for the local chapter of the organization, only one humanitarian effort was larger in scope than what's being done to lend a helping hand to those victimized by Katrina.
"It's not as big as Sept. 11," said Shelley Bartkoski, a spokesperson for the Greater Kansas City American Red Cross. But, she added, "Katrina is the largest mobilization of relief for a single natural disaster that the Red Cross has been involved with in its history."
Hurricane Katrina has ravaged the Gulf Coast in recent days, leaving more than 2 million without power in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Alabama. According to the latest estimates, 120 deaths can be attributed to the storm and officials expect the toll to climb higher as recovery efforts continue.
The outpouring of area residents willing and wanting to help the storm's victims has been tremendous, said Bartkoski, noting that 17 metro-area residents have already been sent to the Gulf Coast to help.
"Donations continue to come in and calls come in all day long," she said. "The switchboard has been lit up. People want to help, which is typical of this area."
Though many have pledged support, the more helping hands the better. Bartkoski said anyone interested in volunteering needs to contact the local chapter immediately. Training sessions are required for first-time volunteers, but the Red Cross has "fast-tracked" training for those wanting to help.
Also, volunteering requires a serious time commitment.
"Someone who does this needs to be able to commit to a three-week assignment and they need to be in good health," Bartkoski said.
There are other ways to lend a hand as well. Monetary donations are always accepted and preferred by the Red Cross over donations of food items or bottled water.
"The quickest way for us to get supplies to the affected areas is to take the money and purchase things in bulk quantities," Bartkoski said. "A donation is really a great way, the best way, somebody can help."
To donate to the relief effort, contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW or access information via the national Web site, www.redcross.org. You may also contact the local chapter in Kansas City, Mo., at (816) 931-8400.