Missouri helps disaster relief

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COLUMBIA - During a time of need in Texas, most of the country is offering its help and that includes Missouri.


The Red Cross of Missouri has already sent six volunteers down to areas of Texas.


David Griffith is the Executive Director for the Central and Northern Missouri Red Cross chapter. He said that the Red Cross began to plan to send volunteers when the storm was predicted.


“We learned from Katrina to get our assets close to Texas before the storm hit,” Griffith said. “We wanted to be able to utilize those resources and respond to the disaster.”


They began planning last Thursday and sent supplies from their warehouse in St. Louis. Those resources included blankets, food, water, and meals.


The Red Cross has several volunteers who they reached out to prior to the storm. A Red Cross volunteer works an everyday job but is ready always when a disaster strikes.


Jobs of the volunteers include, shelter volunteers, mass feeding volunteers, and driving emergency response vehicles. Most of the volunteers are currently in Austin and other areas of Texas where it is safer to be.


Griffith said the Red Cross will not deploy a volunteer to an area that is not safe. Griffith,himself, will be deploying either today or tomorrow. He has had experience going with hurricanes Sandy, Matthews, Katrina and now Harvey.


He will be representing Missouri as an elected official liaison to speak with other representatives to help pass along information.


Griffith and the other volunteers will be spending the next 14 days in Texas. They work six days before they are mandated to take a day off.


A typical day for a Red Cross volunteer on deployment will begin around seven o’clock in the morning and does not end until later that night. They spend the night at designated staff shelters and get back to work in the morning. Griffith said that these volunteers have been trained on what to expect.


Griffith said that these volunteers are the most important part of the helping process.


“We could not do our job if it were not for our volunteers,” Griffith said. “I can’t say enough about them, they put their personal lives on hold.”


Griffith said that most of these volunteers have families. He says they must go on a dime and the understand that is what the red cross’s calling is.


“They have a service heart, they go down and they want to try and help their neighbor,”. “They want to go and help people that they have never met before.”


Most of the volunteers have employers who understand the compassionate work they do, but Griffith mentioned volunteers in the past haven’t been opposed to using vacation time to be deployed.


“That dedication you just can’t put a price tag on it,” Griffith said.


“We are able to bring people on all different faiths and races together to work together as one to deliver to those who lost everything,” Griffith said. “It’s very heart warming, I’ve said many times this is the best job I’ve ever had in my life.


Griffith said that the Red Cross cannot do this alone.


“If it were not for our partner agencies that we have like the Salvation Army, United Way, and Lutheran Service and many others we could not do what we do, Griffith said.” It’s not just one agency, so often the Red Cross gets pointed as the ones doing everything, but we are not.”  


You do not need to be deployed to Texas to help this cause though. After the flooding in Louisiana, the Red Cross started something call aerial deployment. They have volunteers who can work from their homes.


“They can do case work, and do several things that don’t involve them being away from their family,” Griffith said. “These people are just as important, there are several moving parts that go into a disaster response and this is just another of those.”


Griffith said that giving blood in a time like this is not an underrated task. He also said that giving food and clothes may not be as helpful as you think. The Red Cross does not have the services to get those items down to Texas.


“It may seem impersonal for someone to sit down and write a check but that is the best thing somebody can do,” Griffith said. “If you want to designate that check to go to Texas flooding be sure to put that in the memo line, we honor the donor’s intent.”


Griffith said that these victims need to understand that they are not alone.


“They’ve got somebody with the Red Cross and other member agencies who are going to support them,” Griffith said. “It will never go back to the way that it was but we are going to try and get as close to it as we can.”