Superstorm underscores agency’s need for support

Hurricane Sandy has quickly left the front pages of newspapers around the United States, but East Coast residents still are struggling even as power slowly is being restored and some communities begin their recovery.

The needs are far from over as people continue to clean out their homes and struggle with housing issues.

The American Red Cross is continuing to provide help to area residents and will remain on the ground into the foreseeable future. We know people in the affected areas have being living in tough conditions for an extended period and are frustrated and discouraged. The Red Cross is doing everything possible to meet their needs during this difficult time.

Shelters are remaining open for people unable to return home. Currently, there are 2,700 people staying in 20 shelters in the New York and New Jersey area.

In conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention, we have served more than 5.6 million meals and snacks. We have 300 Red Cross feeding trucks as well as rental cars and vans, going into neighborhoods and handing out water, food and relief supplies.

The response to Sandy likely will be the biggest Red Cross response in the last five years, and we have mobilized the full resources of our organization, including more than 5,800 Red Cross volunteers, to get help to these people. We believe the cost of this operation will be at least $100 million and could go higher depending on the needs of the community.

Because we do not receive funding from the federal government, the cost of this operation is being paid for by the generosity of the American people. We have had generous donors from our community give online or send checks in to the local chapter. The money that has been earmarked for Sandy will be used to support the ongoing response to this massive storm.

While Southwest Colorado is not prone to large-scale disasters such as hurricanes, we are vulnerable to wildfires, winter storms and other natural disasters. The Red Cross provided shelters, food and emotional support during this summerís wildfire season. Several weeks ago, we provided assistance to the Dolores/Cortez community during the Roatcap Fire by opening a shelter and feeding emergency responders.

House fires, wildfires and other disaster incidents do not take a break during the holiday season. Our volunteers are on duty 365 days a year providing services to the community. In addition, some volunteers have gone on two-week deployments to help storm victims on the East Coast.

We are proud of the services we provide ask that you think of us during the holiday giving season. We rely on your donations to keep providing services here in Southwest Colorado and across the country. We are thankful for each and every one of you.

Cindi Shank is executive director of the Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross.

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