With the Mississippi River at its high in Memphis today, the American Red Cross is helping people forced from their homes by the waters, and is also preparing as the threat moves toward Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
In the Memphis area, more than 400 Red Cross volunteers are helping to run Red Cross shelters, and are providing food and water to residents and first responders in flooded neighborhoods. The Red Cross has also sent volunteers and relief supplies—including thousands of cots, blankets and comfort kits—down river in preparation for continued flooding along the Mississippi.
The flood response could take some time, as floodwaters are expected to remain in some areas for as long as two weeks.
In Jackson, Miss., more than 50 volunteers gathered at the Red Cross warehouse earlier this week to assemble relief kits for the floods. Volunteers formed an assembly line to fill nearly 1,000 kits in just a few hours. Multiple items were then put into large containers, each holding a large tarp, face mask, goggles, a Red Cross comfort kit, hand sanitizer, work gloves, a first aid kit, toothpaste, toothbrushes, insect repellent and handiwipes. Verizon Communications, Home Depot and Stoko Skin Care all contributed to these kits—just another example of how Red Cross partners help during a disaster response.
In addition, even as the Red Cross prepares to feed and shelter people along the Mississippi for more than a month, relief efforts continue in other parts of the South that were hit by April’s deadly tornadoes.
Hundreds of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed remain in Red Cross shelters, and Red Cross emergency response vehicles continue to drive through neighborhoods to provide food, water and a listening ear.
Ron Fillingham is one of the Red Cross volunteers carefully maneuvering through the streets of Phil Campbell, a town in northwest Alabama.
He smiles and waves to people, and stops in front of homes being patched up or by the ruins of homes being scoured by their previous residents for salvageable items. “Everybody was still in shock when we first got here,” Fillingham commented. “Residents are just starting to come out of their shock now, and they want to talk,” he said.
Fillingham hands out bottled water, snacks and 200-250 hot meals twice a day to residents, disaster recovery workers and volunteers. He knows how important it is to get food to the weary folks affected by disaster.
“Every time we stop somewhere, someone says, ‘Thank you, this is what we really need,’” said Fillingham. “They wonder what they're going to do next. As far as food, we try to take that worry out of their hands.”
On his days off, Fillingham took advantage of a nonprofit organization's rummage sale to pick up some new stuffed animals, which he added to the emergency response vehicle’s cache of important goods to share. During his final rounds, he handed out the toys to several children, their eyes, as well as their mothers’, lighting up for a moment.
“I just believe in helping people when they need it,” Fillingham said.
Red Cross volunteers like Fillingham will be working across the South for weeks to come as the tornado recovery continues, and as relief operations follow the flooding Mississippi.
How You Can Help The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $31 million responding to the disasters that have occurred over the past several weeks, all while initiating another large-scale relief operation to help people along the Mississippi River, which will add even more to this amount. The Red Cross has received $17.7 million in pledges and contributions for disaster relief since March 31 to support the current response in 16 states in the South, Midwest, and other parts of the U.S.
The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster. Those who want to help people affected by disasters like wildfires, floods and tornadoes, 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 www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you 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.