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Red Cross Provides Food, Shelter, Comfort in Irene’s Wake

Although Irene has long disappeared, its devastating effects are certain to linger for some time along the East Coast.

Since the hurricane hit last weekend, the American Red Cross has been providing food and shelter for those impacted by the storm, serving nearly 500,000 meals and snacks and providing approximately 53,000 overnight shelter stays. On Tuesday night, more than 1,300 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.

The Red Cross is also distributing supplies to those beginning to clean up their homes. To date, the Red Cross has handed out more than 23,000 relief items such as hygiene kits, mops, brooms, tarps, work gloves and coolers. Thousands more items are being shipped to hard-hit areas.

More than 4,000 Red Cross workers have been mobilized to help people in need. For some of those workers, that means handing out hot meals in affected neighborhoods, as Red Cross volunteer Rick Umstead is doing.

One of the families Umstead met this week was Janie Whitaker and her 10-year-old granddaughter Morgan Chambers.

Although Whitaker’s home in Bear Grass Township, south of Williamston, N.C., didn’t sustain any damage from the hurricane, she has been without power for three days and doesn’t expect to have it restored for several days more.

“You can get water, ice, but you can’t get relief from the heat, the humidity,“ she said on a day when the mercury topped 90.

Whitaker and her family are among the hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents who lost electricity when Hurricane Irene uprooted trees, snapped power poles and tore service lines from homes throughout the eastern half of the state. In addition, thousands of commercial customers are also without power, meaning many supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants and stores can’t meet the needs of customers.

To ensure people continue to get nutritious meals until power and normal services are restored, the American Red Cross is teaming up with the Southern Baptist Convention’s disaster response unit to provide tens of thousands of meals a day.

Whitaker and her granddaughter stopped at the Bear Grass Township Fire Department to pick up ice and bottled water and were delighted to find free hot meals.

“Thank you so much,” Janie told Umstead as he handed out six dinners from his Red Cross feeding vehicle. “You can’t imagine how good this will taste!”

Safety after the storm The Red Cross information sheet, Returning Home After a Hurricane or Flood, can help keep you safe after the storm. A mobile-friendly version is also available on

How You Can Help – Financial and Blood Donations

In addition to inflicting billions of dollars in damage along the East Coast, Hurricane Irene has also affected the blood supply. Since the storm hit, more than 75 blood drives have been cancelled, leading to a shortfall of more than 2,730 units of blood. It is expected that additional blood drives will be postponed throughout the week as power outages and flooding continue. The Red Cross is urging immediate blood and platelet donations in areas unaffected by this storm and asks that people in affected areas consider donating blood once it’s safe to do so. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to

The Red Cross has disaster relief operations active in more than a dozen states, and costs are growing by the hour as the Red Cross helps those in need. Current estimates for Red Cross relief for Hurricane Irene are from $10 million to $15 million.

Those who want to help 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; 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.