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Red Cross seeks fiscal donations

Elizabeth Hagedorn

As the winds settle from Hurricane Ike, the American Red Cross is looking for volunteers and donations to help the thousands of people in Texas and around the country left with no homes.

Angie McFarland, the financial director and public relations chair at Waco, Texas's Red Cross, said the American Red Cross in central Texas has been housing more than 3,000 people since the storm.

McFarland said the best way to help is to become a part of the Text 2HELP initiative.

"It's a great way for anyone to give back," McFarland said. "The money goes directly the Disaster Relief Fund."

According to the American Red Cross Web site, Red Cross along with the Wireless Foundation and participating wireless carriers

created the text messaging service called "Text 2HELP" after Hurricane Katrina.

This initiative, available in all 50 states, allows customers of participating wireless carriers to send a text message to the American Red Cross and make a donation for relief efforts during a major natural disaster. Participating wireless service providers include Alltel, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.

According to McFarland, the Text 2HELP initiative has been successful.

"It is the most successful cell phone campaign in history," she said. "There have already been several thousand hits at $5 a piece since the recent hurricane."

She stated that more than 6,000 volunteers, the majority from states other than Texas, have been providing food, shelter and emotional support for the victims.

"The staff and evacuees were in good spirits and very appreciative," McFarland said. "All have left and returned home or returned closer to home."

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Mike Samet, a representative from the Cincinnati Red Cross, said there are people in southern Texas still living in shelters that are going to be there for a while.

"Right now there is still a lot of sheltering," Samet said. "People are in the Red Cross shelters across the gulf coast. People's homes have been destroyed and it will be a long time before they can get back in. It's a long process."

Jan Jordan, a Red Cross volunteer in Houston, said the shelters are filled with people who didn't expect to have to stay very long.

"There are families with kids who come and think they're here for a day or two, and they're here for a week," Jordan said.

She said hospitals have dropped off patients at the shelter, including one 70-year-old man with Alzheimer's who arrived with only a bag of personal items and prescription drugs for his condition.

Despite shelters receiving donations of non-perishable items from companies like Wal-Mart, Jordan said donations are still needed. Donation money could be used for food, water or medical supplies.

She said some people don't realize how much the storm impacted people where it hit.

"Some people waited 'til the water was up to their waist (to leave their homes)," Jordan said. "People's houses were blown away. They lost everything they've ever had-family photos, mementos, food, clothing-everything."

Samet says there are two things that the Red Cross needs the most: funding and volunteers.

"The National Disaster Fund is depleted," Samet said. "Events are needed to raise money. Also there are many volunteer opportunities. We have deployed tons of people to the south. There are many people who put their lives on hold and help others. We really need these volunteers at this time."

McFarland agreed that the Red Cross needs help replenishing the Disaster Relief Fund.

"After the last disaster, they are down $150 million," McFarland said. "We are trying to replenish it."

To get involved with the local Red Cross, Miami's American Red Cross Association meets 3 p.m. Wednesdays in room 346 Upham Hall.