As many as 30,000 people have sought shelter from rising flood waters in Eastern Texas after Hurricane Harvey ripped into the coast over the weekend, and a number of local volunteers have packed their bags to respond to calls for help, according to the American Red Cross.
According to Skip Tate, communications director for the Greater Cincinnati/Ohio River Valley chapter of the Red Cross, which covers Highland County, roughly 20 volunteers from around the region have already been deployed to Texas, and 28 more have responded to calls for volunteers since Sunday. If all goes well, Tate said there will be as many as 50 volunteers from Southern Ohio in Texas by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, those who wish to help from home are encouraged to donate money to the American Red Cross or identify local opportunities to give resources.
“Everybody wants to help,” he said. “We recommend giving financially, since that’s the fastest way to get help down there. People have a lot of needs that the clothing and bottled water may not be able to satisfy… Allowing people to buy their own goods gives them a little sense of control, which is important in the recovery process. It also helps the local economy recover.”
According to the American Red Cross, those interested in a quick donation can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. The charges will appear on your wireless bill or be deducted from your prepaid balance.
More information and online donation opportunities can be found by visiting www.redcross.org.
Tate said there are also plenty of churches and clubs in the area taking offerings and donations, although the Red Cross doesn’t coordinate those activities.
Beyond that, Tate said those who want to help on the ground in Texas can attend fast-track volunteer training on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
“Zero to Hero” training sessions will be held at the Greater Cincinnati/Ohio River Valley chapter of the American Red Cross at 2111 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, on Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m., and again on Thursday from 5-9 p.m.
Tate said the sessions will educate volunteers on shelter management and bulk supply distribution, two of the Red Cross’ biggest needs in Texas.
Those who complete the classes are eligible to be deployed to the disaster area. Tate said volunteers typically deploy for two-week periods.
“If anybody is interested in actually going to Texas, or even Louisiana at this point, you can come in and take these courses and be certified to go down there,” Tate said.
In total, Tate said it’s expected that more than 100 area volunteers will be deployed before recovery is complete, making the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey one of the largest response efforts the area has ever made.
“This is going to be going on for weeks, if not months, as the recovery process continues, so we need a lot of volunteers to go down there,” he said.
The first volunteers who went down in preparation of the storm hitting ground will complete their deployment shortly after Labor Day, and more volunteers will need to be sent down to Texas to replace them.
Currently, Tate said the Red Cross is overseeing recovery protocols as some people return to their homes, and as flood waters recede in coming weeks, Tate said a volunteer presence will be needed more than ever to help people pick up the pieces.
According to Tate, the American Red Cross had the provisions in place to shelter 28,000 people before Hurricane Harvey hit ground, and is currently moving additional supplies to handle up to 50,000 displaced people.
More than 80 tractor-trailer loads of cots, blankets, ready-to-eat meals, comfort kits, kitchen supplies and cleaning supplies are now on the ground in Texas, Tate said.
“We have shelter supplies for more than 34,000 people, with additional supplies for 18,000 people en route. More than half of our emergency response fleet – 200 vehicles – have been activated for the operation.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.