Monday, May 23, 2011

Responding to the deadly Midwest tornadoes

Just hours after a series of devastating tornadoes swept through the Midwest last night, the American Red Cross opened shelters in Missouri and Minnesota to help those whose homes were damaged or destroyed.   

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with those who lost loved ones or have suffered through these deadly storms,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president, Red Cross Disaster Services. “The Red Cross already has people on the ground to help in these communities, and we have more on the way today.”

Shelter’s were opened in Joblin, Missouri at Missouri Southern State University, which had approximately 110 people on Sunday night and is capable of holding up to 1,000 people, and another in Minneapolis where 200 people spent the night on Sunday.

Hundreds of relief supplies are being moved from Red Cross warehouses to Joplin and other affected areas, which include comfort kits, tarps, coolers, rakes and other cleanup supplies. The Red Cross is also sending in additional staff, concentrating particularly on trained health and mental health workers, including two Buffalo Chapter volunteers. Jan Bartee, of Kenmore, NY, and Peggy McGee-Smith, of Kenmore, NY, will be leaving tomorrow afternoon for Joplin, Missouri. 

In addition to volunteers, emergency response vehicles will help transport supplies to the shelters and an emergency communications vehicle due to damage sustained on area infrastructure. 

As the Red Cross’ response in the Midwest begins, it continues its relief operations across the South in response to April’s tornadoes and the continued flooding along the Mississippi River. This spring, more than half of the country has been affected by damaging weather, disrupting people’s lives from North Dakota to the East Coast. Since March 31, Red Cross disaster workers have provided thousands of overnight stays in shelters, distributed thousands of cleanup and comfort kits and served more than 1.8 million meals and snacks.

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and wildfires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

If you would like to donate your time as one of our amazing volunteers, please visit us online or contact Mary Walls of the Buffalo Chapter at 716-878-2140 or

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