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SALT LAKE CITY (Sept. 5, 2023) — American Red Cross of Utah Chief Executive Officer Heidi Ruster deployed to Florida this weekend, joining hundreds of trained Red Cross disaster relief workers from across the country providing support and aid to residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia.
“The hurricane caused a wide swath of damage across Florida and into Georgia leaving tens of thousands of people without water or power over the holiday weekend,” said Ruster, a 30-year veteran of the Red Cross who has participated in many disaster relief efforts including recently deploying to Guam. “The hurricane destroyed homes, leaving many residents struggling to rebuild their lives.”
Last week, Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida before advancing into Georgia and South Carolina. The powerful storm caused tornadoes, devastating floods and dangerous winds. Currently, over 640 Red Cross disaster workers are on the ground, offering comfort, support and relief to those affected by Idalia. Since the hurricane's landfall, Red Cross has provided more than 1,400 overnight stays in 28 shelters in Florida and Georgia. “Working with our partners, we have served more than 80,000 meals and snacks," said Ruster. "However, our work is just beginning.”
As a Red Cross liaison to elected officials, nonprofit organizations and community leaders during her two-week deployment, Ruster will ensure open communication and that relief efforts reach those most in need. “We will be working alongside our partners for weeks and months to come,” she said.
Hurricane Idalia cancels blood drives
Nearly 750 blood donations went uncollected in the Southeast as blood drives were canceled and donation centers closed due to the hurricane. More blood donations are expected to go uncollected this week as residents begin to recover. “The Red Cross has already supplied nearly 300 blood products to Florida to meet patient needs during and after the storm,” said Ruster. “We remain prepared to provide more lifesaving units of blood if hospitals require further assistance.”
The national blood supply was already under strain due to a summer-long donation slump and 15 previous major weather-related disasters this year, resulting in thousands of uncollected blood donations. “Blood donors in Utah can extend a lifeline to those in disaster-stricken areas by donating blood today,” Ruster said.
The Red Cross plays a significant role in sustaining the country's blood supply, contributing about 40% of all collected blood. To meet the needs of patients undergoing medical procedures and treatments at over 2,500 hospitals and transfusion centers, the Red Cross must collect 12,500 blood and 3,000 platelet donations daily. Donors can schedule an appointment using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
How can you help the people affected by disasters
Make a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds, and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members, and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.