Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 26, 2012

Red Cross still focused on Sandy victims

Mike James
For The Independent

ASHLAND — Black Friday may have replaced Hurricane Sandy in the headlines, but thousands of people on the eastern seaboard still remain without basic necessities, and local Red Cross officials say Northeast Kentuckians can help.

The organization needs money to pay the bills for the massive relief effort, and blood to replenish stocks that are being depleted, both because of the disaster and because donations almost always fall off during holiday seasons.

Red Cross workers and volunteers remain in storm-hit areas in New York and New Jersey and probably will stay there for a while, said Northeast Kentucky Red Cross executive director Vicki James. Thousands remain without power and many cannot return to their homes yet, and the Red Cross is maintaining shelters and supplying meals and other day-to-day necessities.

Local chapters have enough resources to meet their own needs but the national organization is calling on its regional branches to send trucks and manpower.

For instance, more than 5,000 volunteers spent their Thanksgiving handing out hot meals, and the organization delivered 20,000 boxes of food, each enough to feed a family of four, for the Thanksgiving week, James said. So far the Red Cross has distributed close to 7 million meals and snacks.

The cost of the relief effort is expected to top $100 million, she said. “This disaster in scope will probably be bigger than Katrina because of the area it covered.”

Blood supplies are low, in part because the storm forced cancellation of bloodmobile visits in the disaster area. The shortage is not critical but in time it could be if stocks are not rebuilt through donations, James said.

There also are seasonal forces at work. Donations always drop off during holiday periods. Local supplies are not at risk, however.

The local Red Cross chapter will have an open drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at Ashland Community and Technical Center, and its regular drive is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Ashland Fire Department.

 While residents in the northeast move slowly back into their homes, many still face difficulties in cooking, cleaning and other regular household activities, and continue to need food and water assistance.

Donations are needed, and cash is preferred rather than food and other supplies. Processing and transporting food and other such donations costs money that could buy more food and supplies, she said.

To donate, contact the local Red Cross office at 4201 Blackburn Avenue. The phone number is 325-1626. Donors may specify that their contribution go to Sandy relief or to local efforts.

“I’m not amazed but I’m always pleased that people in this community always respond,” James said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.