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International Red Cross recovery comes home to Coastal Bend

Red Cross volunteers and staff in Corpus Christi who came to render aid to Coastal Bend residents include Mickey Davenport (left) of Indiana, Larissa Hatch of Washington, D.C., Lou Hawley of North Carolina, Jim Lewis of Ohio, Peter Brown of Pennsylvania, Virginia Randal of Corpus Christi, Sherril Kullenberg of Corpus Christi and Tom Pillsworth of New York. Photo by Jane Kathleen Gregorio

VOLUNTEER: Days before Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, American Red Cross staff and volunteers from different parts of the United States were already making their way to Corpus Christi to assist Coastal Bend residents with disaster preparedness and recovery.

“When news of the hurricane first hit, those of us from the Red Cross organization who were available volunteered to go to Texas to give what help we could,” said Peter Brown, Red Cross public affairs manager, who traveled to the area from Allentown, Pennsylvania. “And now that the hurricanes have passed, the aftermath they’ve left will take months, possibly even years, of recovery.”

With the combined help of volunteers and through partnerships with local businesses and other organizations, the Red Cross has provided more than 400,000 overnight shelter stays in Texas over the past three weeks. The nonprofit has supplied over 2.3 million meals and snacks and activated more than 190 emergency response vehicles from across the country to deliver those meals, relief supplies and medical care to evacuees, including mental health services.

“First Baptist Church at 3115 Ocean Drive has generously provided us with a building to serve as our headquarters for the Coastal Bend region,” Brown said. “They have even helped by providing meals for our volunteers, which has been a tremendous benefit for our team.”

Larissa Hutch, an employee of the Red Cross volunteer services in the National Capital Region of Washington, D.C., came to Texas to provide help wherever it was needed the most.

“My job was to manage a team of event-based and locally affiliated volunteers to the disaster response operation,” she told Corpus Christi Business News. “It’s been a humbling experience to work side by side with these tireless volunteers. Everyone puts in such hard work because of their deep concern for other’s suffering. I love the camaraderie, their creativity and passion. … It’s unmatched to anything I’ve experienced.”

The American Red Cross of the Coastal Bend has been serving the local community since 1916. Today, the organization serves 19 counties, including Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Calhoun, DeWitt, Duval, Goliad, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Lavaca, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio and Victoria. It provides disaster relief, CPR training and assistance to military personnel, veterans and their families.

The Red Cross also provides financial assistance to Texas households affected by the storm. Qualified households from 39 Texas counties that were severely impacted by Harvey can apply for a one-time grant of $400, which became available Sept. 21. (Evacuees who stayed at shelters are given first priority.) Registration to apply for the money will remain open until Oct. 10. Check local Red Cross staff or volunteers to learn how to apply for the assistance.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Anyone can be part of helping the Red Cross with hurricane recovery. It can be as easy as sending in a one-time $10 donation via text from a cellphone. Just text “HARVEY” to 90999. The charge will show up on individual phone bills. The money will be specifically used for Hurricane Harvey disaster funds.

To donate more then $10, visit redcross.org and click on the “Donate” button. A drop-down menu allows donors to choose which disaster they want their funds to go toward. Donations may also be mailed to American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839.

“If they indicate ‘Harvey’ on the check or the form, it will be applied towards this disaster relief,” Brown said. “For donations that don't indicate a specific disaster, the money will be used towards our General Disaster funds, which are applied wherever help is needed the most.”

For every $1 donated, 91 cents go directly to disaster relief, according to the Red Cross website.

The aftermath from Harvey will be felt by the Coastal Bend for many more months, and volunteers are still needed, Brown said.

“We have an application for volunteers on our website,” he continued. “We need drivers for our emergency vehicles, especially those with a commercial license. We need all kinds of people to lend whatever talent or skill they can provide.”

Corpus Christi resident Rose Adames volunteered after seeing a Red Cross ad on TV asking for help.

“I felt compelled to volunteer because my own home was spared, whereas so many others experienced damage and loss,” she said. “I wanted to do my part to help the community.”

For the past few weeks, Adames has been answering phones, meeting with victims seeking aid and providing literature and information at the Brownlee office.

“We can get as many as 200 calls a day,” she said. “And when people come to the office after experiencing such devastation, they need someone to talk to and give them information on the next step. I do what I can, but the work is never done.”

Adames had some advice for others who are considering whether or not to volunteer.

“The need is always there, all the time, especially during these times of disasters,” she said. “Somebody has to do it. Why not you?”

The American Red Cross of Coastal Bend is located at 1721 S. Brownlee Blvd. in Corpus Christi. For more information, call (361) 887-9991 or visit redcross.org.

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