It has been six months since the devastation of Superstorm Sandy was inflicted on 11 states, including West Virginia. Here is a report of what American Red Cross has accomplished to date.
In the six months since Sandy devastated homes, communities and families in New York and New Jersey, signs of progress and hope can be seen throughout the region. Recovery from this storm will be a marathon, not a sprint, and Red Cross will be there every day to help thanks to the generosity of the American public.
In the days after the storm came ashore, the Red Cross was able to immediately launch a large-scale emergency relief effort the largest U.S. disaster response by the Red Cross in more than five years. After weeks of providing emergency relief, the Red Cross has a long-term recovery operation underway today. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other government partners, the Red Cross is working with about 9,000 families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
The Red Cross is helping these families find new places to live, clean mold from their water-logged homes, get emotional support during their struggle and financial support as they work to put their lives back together. Trained Red Cross workers are meeting one-on-one with people to help provide assistance with home repairs, rent, utility deposits and available social service programs. Mid-Ohio Valley volunteers have given hundreds of hours in response to this event.
The Red Cross is also giving grant money to other non-profit groups to support the help they are providing to those affected by Sandy. This includes giving nearly $6 million in grants to three food banks in New York to help ensure people continue to get the food they need. A grant of $500,000 has been given to Operation Hope to provide assistance and financial counseling to survivors. Another $5 million has gone to a mold remediation program to help New York residents clean up their homes.
In these past six months more than 17,000 Red Cross disaster workers about 90 percent of them volunteers - have responded to help those affected by Sandy. The Red Cross has:
* Served more than 17 million meals and snacks;
* Distributed more than 7 million relief items such as cold weather items and clean-up supplies;
* Provided almost 113,000 health services and emotional support contacts for people living in very tough conditions;
* Provided more than 81,000 shelter stays.
Approximately $302 million was donated to the Red Cross as of April 18 to help those affected by Sandy, and the Red Cross has spent or made commitments to spend about $192 million, which is nearly two-thirds of the contributions to date.
We want to spend the money people donated for Sandy quickly, but more importantly, we want to spend it wisely. It's important to make sure some money is available for needs no one can predict right now. However long it takes, we are committed that money donated for Sandy will be used to help individuals and communities affected by this storm.
Red Cross volunteers stand ready to respond to disaster events here at home. They do this thanks to the generous support shown by residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley. Those with questions on how they can show support or how we deliver services here at home should feel free to contact me directly at 304-482-3131.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sharon Callow is exectuive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.