Weather

Red Cross needs help after storms drain funds

Posted November 17, 2008 5:06 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2008 9:00 a.m. EST

— After tornadoes touched down six times along a 100-mile track in North Carolina, American Red Cross volunteers responded quickly, bringing chainsaws to clear debris and food to nourish the displaced.

But after helping others, the Red Cross needs help itself to keep the charity out of debt.

Pansy Evans, of Kenly, said Red Cross volunteers were some of the first to reach out to her after winds destroyed the home she had lived in for 44 years.

"It's unbelievable what people has done for me. They've been so nice to me," said Evans, who has been staying with family.

The Red Cross delivered a $75 gift card to Evans to help buy food.

"It was wonderful," she said. "You don't know how much you appreciate things till it comes home to you."

On Sunday alone, the Red Cross fed 280 victims and volunteers at a shelter at Free Will Baptist Church in Kenly. The charity has put up 10 people in hotels and provided assistance to another 125 people displaced by the storm.

All that help takes money – about $20,000 for this disaster-relief effort, charity officials estimated. And after an active hurricane season across the country, the Red Cross' national disaster-relief fund has run out of money.

"The Red Cross earlier this year was actually borrowing money to pay for disaster relief," Barry Porter, with the Triangle Red Cross said. "We've raised $62 million. We're still $38 million short."

The national fund is the first place state and local chapters go to cover their expenses in disasters such as these tornadoes. Despite that deficit, the Red Cross will provide relief for the tornado victims, Porter pledged.

"You still must deliver the services. The family still needs food, shelter, clothing, and we're going to make sure they get it," he said.

The economic downturn has made harder for the charity to find donations, Gov. Mike Easley said.

"In times of disaster, you go to the Red Cross; they come through. They do a great job," he said. "But in tough economic times, when people need them most, it's when they get the fewest donations."

The governor urged those who want to help storm victims to direct donations to the Red Cross.

"This is a time when we need to remind people to help the Red Cross, because they're always out there, helping us," Easley said.

Checks should include "Wilson-Johnston tornado" in the memo line, and all donations can be mailed to:

American Red Cross
801 S. Third St.
Smithfield, N.C. 27577