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2016 Year in Disasters: Minnesota Red Cross Volunteers Helping Near and Far

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This year disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people and the Red Cross was there, helping.

A Year That Set New Records

In a year that set new records for severe and devastating weather, the American Red Cross provided more assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by these disasters all across the United States than in the past two years combined. Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota responded to 470 disasters in our region and 150 people deployed to help those affected by national disasters.

During 2016, the Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross also:

-- Helped 1,011 families affected by local disasters, mostly single family home fires
-- Installed 3,720 smoke alarms in residences, making them safer from and more prepared for home fires as part of our Home Fire Campaign 
-- Reached 5,245 youth with emergency preparedness education through The Pillowcase Project

In addition to helping at home, more than 150 Red Cross disaster relief workers from Minnesota responded (some not once, but multiple times) to national Red Cross relief efforts across the country, including flooding in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana and Iowa; water crisis in Flint, Michigan; wildfires in California; and hurricane relief across multiple states along the eastern seaboard. Their service provided shelter, food, and medical and emotional support to thousands of people experiencing some of their saddest moments.

“People impacted by disaster are facing what can be their darkest days. This year a seemingly endless chain of disasters affected hundreds of thousands of people and the Red Cross was there, helping,” says Phil Hansen, CEO for the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. “But, we need your support now to continue providing help to families affected by disasters. The Red Cross depends on generous financial donations to provide services.”

For example, in November, Red Cross volunteer Mimi Bielinski met with Milton V. following a multi-unit apartment fire in Burnsville. Mimi worked with Milton to assess and support his family’s immediate disaster relief needs and to direct him to additional resources for long-term recovery. With Red Cross help, Milton says, “All of our problems went away. We had a place to stay, money for food and clothes.” The Red Cross assisted more than 80 people affected by the fire. After four years into serving as a Red Cross volunteer Mimi said, “I feel good when people are being helped. And, I can tell when they’re being helped just by my interactions with them.”

As of December 4, the Red Cross provided the following help to people impacted by disasters across the country this year:

-- Opened nearly 800 emergency shelters, providing 206,000 overnight shelter stays to people forced from their homes
-- Served more than 4.1 million meals and snacks
-- Distributed more than 2.1 million relief items

World’s Largest Humanitarian Network Responds to Global Disasters

Before Hurricane Matthew hit the United States, the storm made landfall in Haiti, leaving widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure and major crop and livestock loss. The American Red Cross delivered critical relief, including supplies to reduce the increased threat of cholera in the country. A massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada threatened dozens of communities in the spring. The American Red Cross deployed almost 100 employees and volunteers to help. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador in April, cutting off remote communities and causing severe damage to the country’s infrastructure. Red Cross societies from all over the world stepped in to help. 2016 was the deadliest year for refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, with more than 4,000 people dead as they tried to cross from Libya to Europe. The American Red Cross contributed funds to help meet the needs of refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life in Europe, including the deployment of a disaster specialist aboard a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. 

How You Can Help 

The Minnesota Region of the American Red Cross responds to hundreds of disasters every year, most are home fires. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Contributions may also be sent to the American Red Cross Minnesota Region, 1201 West River Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55454.