The American Red Cross is sending 30 volunteers and although none of them are from the South Bend area, one is preparing to go from northwest Indiana, the spokesman for Indiana's Red Cross headquarters, LaMar Holliday, said.
They will be helping storm victims with shelter, mental health services, food and other needs. More volunteers may yet deploy, the nonprofit agency reported, as it worked to identify the needs of storm victims.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross is seeking donations of money and blood as blood distribution in disaster areas is often hampered.
In times of disaster, relief agencies often discourage giving material goods because they overwhelm and get in the way of efficient response efforts.
The Red Cross says it can move blood donations around the country to where it’s needed.
"It can go anywhere from your community to Florida, Texas or wherever that need is," Holliday said. "It helps us keep that supply on the shelves."
The South Bend Medical Foundation also collects blood locally. It serves local hospitals, but it’s also part of a national network that is now trying to boost an excess supply of blood across the country ― so that it can help disaster victims. When a partner like SBMF has excess blood, it offers that to the network, and communities in need can reach out to receive it, the foundation’s blood donor recruitment supervisor, Mary Ankrapp, said.
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But, locally, she noted, “We need to first be sure we are meeting the needs of the local hospitals.”
She said local blood supplies were already “tight” having just come out of the summer.
“On average, blood collection organizations nationwide had only 1-2 days’ worth of blood supply heading into the storm,” according to a press release from the AABB Interorganizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism. “Anticipated disruptions in blood collections ― as well as transportation challenges ― in Florida and the Southeast throughout the next several days are likely to exacerbate already low inventories, particularly in the affected areas.”
Turning the lights back on
Another contingent of local volunteers heading down to Florida are electrical workers with Mishawaka Utilities. Earlier this week, eight volunteers, in two trucks, joined with hundreds of crews from around the country in making the trip down to help cities in Florida repair power lines once the most severe weather passes.
Matt Lentsch, executive director of development with Mishawaka Utilities, said the city got the call for aid from the Indiana Municipal Electric Association, which operates a mutual aid program with other states during natural disasters. Though many volunteered, eight workers were selected and departed for Florida earlier this week.
"We’re thrilled to be in a position to have the expertise and have the equipment to be able to provide help to our neighbors. And while they’re not in Indiana, they’re still neighbors to us," Lentsch said.
The contingent will be working in and around New Smyrna Beach, Fla., which is around 60 miles northeast of Orlando on the Atlantic coast of the state. Repair work is expected to take about a week and the crew will be paid by IMEA during that time. Lentsch said Mishawaka crews have helped out-of-state communities with severe weather work before and were mobilized to help out in southern Indiana and Kentucky when flooding hit the region, but ultimately were not deployed.
Indiana Michigan Power this week also sent multiple crews south to help with electrical restoration. More than 350 workers from South Bend, Elkhart, Muncie and Fort Wayne, made the trip to Florida, the company said in a release.
According to some estimates, more than 1.5 million people still remain without power in Florida as of Friday afternoon.
∎ Donate money: Visit redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS. Or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 in order to make a $10 donation.
∎ Volunteer: To serve as a “disaster action team” volunteer, visit redcross.org/dat.
∎ Donate blood: Visit redcross.org/give-blood.
∎ South Bend Medical Foundation: To make blood donations, visit https://www.sbmf.org/ or call 574-234-1157.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: How to help Red Cross hurricane response and blood donations