Opinion

By helping the Red Cross, you help yourself

Our local American Red Cross chapter marshals volunteers to respond to disasters, near and far.

We deployed more than 110 volunteers nationwide last year. Each time our volunteers deploy they come back with new stories, new friends and significant experience to share when disasters strike locally.

Once every 42 hours. That’s how often the Red Cross responds to a call for help in King, Kitsap and North Mason counties. A house fire or windstorm, earthquake or flood — no matter the disaster — our local community has learned to count on us for help.

This is hurricane season. One wouldn’t think that hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico would greatly affect the daily lives of people in the Pacific Northwest.

But for the Red Cross and its family of volunteers, hurricane season, like fire season, means that our community just gets a little bit larger, our boundaries expand and our volunteers become part of a larger team of experts who deploy and provide shelter, food and comfort for our displaced neighbors.

A disaster strikes and we respond.

An integral part of the American Red Cross disaster mission begins before disaster strikes.

Day 1 is the day a volunteer walks through the door and is matched to a position that will benefit the volunteer and the Red Cross.

Then, volunteers are trained accordingly so that those able to deploy become a team from the moment they reach their deployment location.

In the case of Hurricane Gustav, our response began two weeks prior to Gustav’s forecasted landfall. By helping communities prepare, destruction is minimized and lives can be saved.

Preparation means working with partners and having the right resources in the right place at the right time. The American Red Cross pre-positioned equipment, supplies and disaster workers to prepare for Gustav’s arrival.

Nearly 3,000 disaster workers and 200 Red Cross emergency response vehicles deployed to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to begin preparatory operations geared primarily toward feeding and sheltering those in Gustav’s path.

Our local chapter deployed a number of people before the storm.

The success of the evacuation efforts meant that on the first night of sheltering the Red Cross housed 45,000 people in 10 states, significantly more than the 30,000 sheltered the pre-landfall night during Hurricane Katrina.

Volunteers and evacuees alike rode out the winds and rains in evacuation shelters.

When it was safe, our volunteers moved into the affected areas with mass care—sheltering, bulk distribution, health and mental health services.

Red Cross response vehicles began mobile feeding and distribution of cleanup kits.

The communities needed us and we were there. The local American Red Cross and the national preparedness and response system are only as strong as the American people allow them to be.

Monetary donations and donations of volunteers time help us operate shelters and provide meals for evacuees, victims and clean up workers.

Your contribution buys things like food, cots, blankets, toiletries and cleanup supplies.

Donations also ensure that we can move our volunteers to the region and provide vital services like mental health and first aid.

The American Red Cross estimates that its response to Gustav could cost $20 to $35 million, and this is just one of several storms forming this hurricane season.

Your own community just got a little larger and you have neighbors that need your help.

Prepare yourself.

Contact us and give your time.

Contribute what you are able so that we can see to the immediate needs of those in the path of disasters.

You can help people affected by thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Hurricanes of 2008, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people.

You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Hurricanes of 2008, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster.

Call (800) RED CROSS, or (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, PO Box 37243, Washington, D.C., 20013.

Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.westsoundredcross.org or www.redcross.org.

The American Red Cross honors donor intent.

If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so via mail.

Janet Heath is the West Sound Director of the America Red Cross.

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