Hurricane Charley sent onto Florida's west coast recently, destroying hundreds of homes and other structures, bringing storm surges of more than 15 feet, toppling trees and power lines and taking several lives. More than 45,000 people sought refuge in more than 250 shelters across the state. Government officials in 15 counties issued mandatory and voluntary evacuations of low-lying, coastal area, where an estimated 6.5 million people live within Charley's path.
The American Red Cross was already in place before the storms hit Florida and parts of the East Coast, churning out the largest hurricane response effort since Hurricane Andrew. More than 1,000 Red Cross volunteers and staff responded to the hurricane, opening shelters and securing nearly 100 emergency response vehicles to reach victims with food and drink. Fourteen Red Cross supply trailers stocked with thousands of comfort and clean-up kits,and kitchen support materials were dispersed to the scene from Atlanta, San Antonio and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Red Cross volunteers and staff were mobilized. The Red Cross was ready.
Locally, the Wabash Valley Chapter Emergency Response Vehicle was put on alert on Friday. Chapter staff and volunteers completed the readiness checklist to ensure the vehicle and two local disaster volunteers were ready to deploy. Red Cross diaster volunteers Ray and Barbara Pridemore accepted the assignment and made preparations to leave their Sullivan County home. That evening the Pridemores headed to the Mobile, Alabama staging area. Upon their arrival they were dispatched to Florida with Port Charlotte as their destination. In Port Charlotte they will become a part of the Red Cross teams delivering food, drink, personal hygiene items and clean-up kits to families and clean-up crews.
All Red Cross diaster assistance is free - an outright gift made possible by the financial contributions of the American people. "Every year, the Red Cross assists more than 600,000 disaster victims across the nation. In fact, every eight minutes, Red Cross volunteers and employees help individuals whose home, stability and peace of mind have been rocked by disaster," stated Wabash Valley Chapter Executive Director Carl Stevens.
The Disaster Relief Fund enables the American Red Cross to provide timely and direct relief assistance and life-saving services to victims of natural and man-made disasters, including the recent storm and hurricane activity in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The fund allows the Red Cross to provide immediate emergency assistance including food, shelter, clothing and physical and mental health services and basic relief services. The Red Cross mission is to help the individuals, families, communities - ultimately the nation - recover from sudden catastrophes.
The American Red Cross is not a government agency. It depends on the voluntary contributions and giving of the American people. The Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which is the humanitarian organization's resource for administering vital services to the victims of these storms and thousands of other disasters each year, is critically low.
You can help the victims of Tropical Storm Bonnie, Hurricane Charley and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make secure online credit card donations by visiting www.redcross.org.