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Area volunteers head to San Diego

Local Red Cross chapter helping with fire relief

POSTED: October 31, 2007 5:07 a.m.
The local Red Cross chapter has sent three volunteers to join national relief efforts to help victims of wildfires in Southern California.

The Northeast Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross sent three local volunteers to San Diego on Thursday, according to Cheryl Vandiver, director of public affairs for the chapter. Pamela Wilder of Hall County, Karen Hillman of Lumpkin County and Patty New of Union County will be dispersed to shelters for client case work. They join the more than 3,000 Red Cross workers from all 50 states already on site in Southern California.

"Generally they pull them from close to the area, but in this instance, people just want to help," Vandiver said.

She said the three may be sent to different shelters, but all three will be working to process the large numbers of victims who are coming to the shelters. This involves getting names and other personal information such as clothing and shoe sizes and providing them with funds so they can purchase items they may need.

Red Cross provides immediate response to help victims during the first few days of a disaster, Vandiver explained. Afterward, they are referred to other agencies for additional assistance.

"When we train people as volunteers, we usually train them in a specific area so they are experts in that area," she said. In this instance, Vandiver said, the national organization sent out a call to its chapters for volunteers trained to process victims.

Vandiver said the local chapter has been trying to contact the three women since they landed Thursday, but have been able to speak with them. She didn’t expect to hear from them until Monday or so, as they will be working 12-14 hour days and may be located in areas where there is no cell phone service.

Vandiver added that there are an additional six to eight volunteers standing by to be sent to San Diego if they are needed. Typically, a volunteer’s stint in a disaster area lasts only about two to three weeks at most.

"They’re usually pretty tired and worn out and stressed from seeing so many people who have lost their homes," she said.

Vandiver said this was the last time the local chapter had provided assistance to the national chapter since Hurricane Katrina. At that time, the local chapter processed some 1,000 storm victims at the local center, in addition to send volunteers to help in areas hit by the storm.

During the recent wildfires, the American Red Cross has provided 24,000 meals and 15,000 overnight stays in the 23 shelters it is operating in the area.

In addition, the Red Cross is operating a Safe and Well site for people to check on someone in the stricken area. To date, the site has more than 1,300 people registered and has made more than 300 successful matches. The Safe and Well link is on the Northeast Georgia Chapter’s Web site at www.negaredcross.org.

Monetary donations also are being accepted for wildfire relief. Vandiver said the local chapter already has received some donations. The local chapter can be reached at 770-532-8453 or 800-282-1722.



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