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Community Partners Are Crucial to Red Cross Relief Efforts

When disasters strike, as they have across the South and Midwest during the past few weeks, the American Red Cross is there to help. What some may overlook is the outpouring of volunteers and support from our many partners.

Across the South, Red Cross partners are involved in everything from feeding and sheltering to conducting disaster assessments in ravaged communities.

In hard-hit Alabama, the Red Cross is conducting disaster assessments with the help of volunteers from several organizations, including the African-American fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi Inc.; the Western Alabama Labor Council; the Central Alabama Building and Construction Trades Council; and Islamic Relief, USA.

NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous, along with NAACP field staff, visited the Red Cross shelter in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this week and met with Red Cross leadership, including Charley Shimanski, Senior Vice President of Disaster Services.

The Red Cross and the NAACP have a decades-long relationship that has only grown stronger over the last several years. During that time, more than 1,000 NAACP members have been trained by the Red Cross. This preparation has paid off during disasters as NAACP volunteers help to shelter and feed affected residents.

The Red Cross is also working with the NAACP and National Baptist Convention in Mississippi to identify more volunteers for the tornado response and the impending floods. Coordination is also underway with Save the Children, Catholic Charities and Church World Services ahead of what may be historic flooding.

The outpouring of assistance has been just as great in Georgia. Volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention—a longtime partner in helping the Red Cross serve hot meals—are preparing meals along with the National Baptist Convention, which is providing assistance. The United Methodist Church of Trenton, Ga., is serving as a community feeding site, which the Red Cross is supporting.

Among the organizations providing food in Georgia are the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Food Bank, the American Legion in Trenton and the Rome baseball team, the Braves, which has donated hot dog meals for the Red Cross mobile feeding route.

Southern Adventist University is helping the Red Cross by making rooms available for families and Red Cross volunteers. Several churches have also pitched in to help shelter affected residents, including Trenton First Baptist Church, Trenton Methodist Church and Ringgold United Methodist Church.

Volunteer partners are also active in Missouri and Arkansas, with Catholic Charities establishing a service center in Faulkner County, Mo., and the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Convention helping to feed residents in Arkansas.

It is with the help of these partners and many others that the Red Cross is able to help people in a time of great need. And as the years go by and partnerships grow stronger, relief efforts become stronger as well. As the Reverend Nelson Rivers of the NAACP once said, “If we practice together effectively, we play together well in the big game.”