Red Cross Challenge

Non profit engages South County communities to help hurricane
Gilroy – Dare to help. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross is challenging South County businesses and community members to help Gulf Coast hurricane victims.

The local chapter of the national organization has come up with two options for locals who want to help with hurricane relief or local emergency preparedness.

The local chapter is accepting monetary donations for both the “Santa Clara Valley Coordinated Response Campaign” and the “National Disaster Relief Fund.”

Funds collected for the response campaign will stay in Santa Clara county to train volunteers and prepare for local emergencies. The national fund will continue short-and-long term efforts in the areas impacted by the hurricanes.

“We don’t have a financial goal for this,” said Cynthia Shaw, director of marketing and communications for the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. “The goal is to engage the community.”

After Hurricane Mitch hit in 1999, the Red Cross realized that they spent more volunteer manpower sorting and shipping goods collected throughout the U.S. than helping victims, according to Shaw.

Monetary donations allow the organization to go into the areas and purchase goods near the disaster area that help stimulate the economy.

“It helps us with various communities – Asian, Vietnamese or African American – to find culturally appropriate foods and so forth,” Shaw said.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Ted Fox, the CEO of Saint Louise Regional Hospital, and Steve Staloch, the publisher of the Gilroy Dispatch, Morgan Hill Times and the Hollister Freelance, came up with the idea of a business challenge with the Red Cross and a benefit concert to be held Oct. 22.

“It came from inside the community,” said Vivian Smith, vice president of public and community relations for the hospital. “Ted and Steve got the Red Cross involved. It came from their hearts.”

“We wanted something the whole community could get involved in, both the citizens as well as the businesses,” Fox said. “To give some focus to what is going on.”

Recently, the Red Cross opened up feeding sites in New Orleans for residents as they return home.

Many of them are unable to cook in their own homes. The local chapter is also providing support to 380 evacuees who have moved to the Bay Area, including four in Gilroy.

The Red Cross continues working with families after they are out of immediate danger, and Shaw said the organization still has caseworkers helping families who were involved in the Oklahoma City bombings and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We move into a quieter phase, but it is crucial to the process,” Shaw said.

The other part of the challenge is to prepare Santa Clara county for an emergency or natural disaster.

Shaw said the Red Cross has trained 2,000 volunteers in the last month, but prior to that they had only 400 volunteers for the entire chapter.

“Disaster recovery and response is a local business,” Shaw said. “We need to be financially sound and be able to respond should a disaster strike in our area.”

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