Aid efforts continuing

Published 9:11 pm Thursday, October 7, 2010

Contributing Editor

Area businesses are helping those coordinating and carrying out disaster-assistance efforts in the wake of last week’s storms and subsequent flooding, according to American Red Cross volunteers and staff.
“Local businesses have been good about supporting us from the first moment we began making calls,” said Sandy Fenn, a volunteer with the Greater Pamlico Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, which is based in Washington.
Fenn said businesses such as Backwater Jack’s, Pizza Hut and Wal-Mart have been donating food to Red Cross volunteers and staff based in Washington.
The Red Cross contracted with Woogie’s, an area restaurant, to provide meals to some area storm victims, including those at the Red Cross shelter at Orr Masonic lodge in Washington, Fenn related.
I Can’t Believe It’s A Bookstore on West Main Street in Washington is providing free coffee to Red Cross volunteers who present coupons to receive their 12-ounce cups of gourmet coffee. The bookstore distributed coupons to disaster-assistance agencies.
Melanie McDonough, a volunteer with the Greensboro chapter of the Red Cross and serving as the public-affairs officer for the Red Cross disaster-response operations in Washington, said businesses such as Lowe’s are helping out by donating items that people affected by the storm can use in cleaning their once-flooded homes.
A disaster-assistance operations center has been set up in the former Tassels building in downtown Washington. It’s staffed by local Red Cross volunteers, Red Cross volunteers from throughout North Carolina and Red Cross volunteers from South Carolina, Louisiana and other states, Fenn said.
“The goal is to run the operation out of Tassels and keep the local chapter office going as usual,” said Fenn.
Local Red Cross volunteers are being paired with Red Cross volunteers from other places.
“We’re extremely grateful for the influx of volunteers from all over the place,” Fenn said.
Fenn said she’s somewhat excited about being part of a national Red Cross response and learning how such as response is carried out.
“It’s awful we have to learn it, but it’s a great learning experience for our folks,” Fenn said of local Red Cross volunteers participating in the response.
Fenn said the local Red Cross chapter, like many other Red Cross chapters, can use more volunteers to help with disaster-assistance efforts. Fenn believes the presence of the Red Cross disaster-assistance teams in the area could be beneficial.
“If folks see us out there, they learn we are more than just blood services,” Fenn said.
For those forced from their homes by the storms and subsequent flooding and unable to return home yet, the Red Cross has three shelters open, one at the Orr Masonic lodge at the corner of East Third and North Bonner streets in Washington, one at the Bertie County Council of Aging, 103 W. School St., Windsor, and one at the New Bern YMCA, 100 YMCA Lane, New Bern.
Red Cross emergency-response vehicles were making their rounds in Beaufort, Bertie and Craven counties Wednesday. In Beaufort County, they dropped off meals, snacks, drinks and clean-up kits to residents on the Voice of America Road, Minuteman Lane and the shelter at Orr Masonic lodge.
The Red Cross has provided more than 1,050 meals, nearly 4,500 snacks and more than 550 clean-up kits since the beginning of the storms, according to a Red Cross news release.
The local unit of the Salvation Army remains busy, too.
“We’re still feeding,” said Karl Bush, a corps assistant with the Salvation Army.
In addition to the mobile kitchen from the Salvation Army’s center in Washington feeding people in Beaufort County, a Salvation Army canteen based in New Bern has been moved to Bertie County. It began providing meals Tuesday morning.
In Beaufort County, the Salvation Army is providing two meals a day, lunch and dinner. In Bertie County, breakfast, lunch and dinner are being served, Bush said.
As of lunchtime Wednesday, the Salvation Army had served 1,364 meals, Bush said. The Salvation Army is prepared to serve up to 575 meals each day, he said.
“We’re working really closely with the Red Cross in regard to feeding,” Bush said.
“We will keep serving meals until we are no longer needed,” Bush said.
Asked how storm victims are responding to the meals they’re being provided, Bush said, “They’re very appreciative.”
“I’ve had people come to me, asking for food — and they’re crying,” Bush said.
Local residents needing disaster-related assistance or who wish to serve as volunteers should contact the Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.