Sunday, September 25, 2005


Sept. 27 Assignment: Red Cross here races to help Rita's victims

Red Cross here races to help Rita's victims
By Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

The southeastern Michigan Chapter of the American Red Cross said it plans to send six volunteers today to areas hit by Hurricane Rita.

“After Monday we may send more people,” said Bryan Peckinpaugh, spokesman for the local Red Cross. “There may not be as many people needing to evacuate.”

Those volunteers will go to a staging area in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday and then will be transferred elsewhere, likely to work in shelters. The agency already has 65 volunteers from Metro Detroit in Alabama and Louisiana. And they are quickly training additional psychologists and psychiatrists to go to affected areas and counsel victims. Those volunteers could be leaving in the next couple of weeks, Peckinpaugh said.

The Red Cross has had an overflow of volunteers since Hurricane Katrina. They have 1,600 people in Metro Detroit, half of whom in have disaster training and could be sent to help, he said.

“We were quite surprised,” Peckinpaugh said. “It shows again that this community really wants to lend a hand when something happens in this country.”

The best way for others to help is to donate money, not goods, Red Cross officials said.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office has about eight officers ready to go to the South if needed. Spokesman John Roach said Saturday afternoon that they are contact with police departments in New Orleans and Texas and will go if needed.

DTE Energy also released about 200 contractors late last week to go to the region to help restore power.

Metro Detroiters with family in the path of Hurricane Rita were encouraged Saturday that the storm hadn’t created as much havoc as predicated. Peckinpaugh said his agency hasn’t gotten any calls from Metro Detroiters looking for help in locating family members.

Melanie Melendez of Trenton isn’t calling her mom every hour and a half any more. But still she’s concerned. Her mother decided to ride out the storm at her home-with windows covered in plywood-about 15 miles southeast of Houston. Power is going on and off periodically and the phones aren’t working.

Melendez said she wishes her mom would have evacuated.

“You have to take it seriously,” said Melendez, 33.

“We didn’t take it seriously in Louisiana because we didn’t see it before.”

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