The Central Iowa Chapter of the Red Cross launched a campaign on May 10th to build awareness about the organization and encourage volunteers. Just a few weeks later a string of major natural disasters gave them — and the rest of the Red Cross chapters in the state — all the attention they could handle.
Central Iowa Chapter executive director, Leslie Schaffer, says they went from looking to generate interest in their area to requesting help from outside the state. "This is the first time in a quite awhile that we’ve had to ask Red Cross and our national organization to help us support a disaster relief effort in Iowa, and so we have people from throughout the United States coming to help with the disaster relief effort," Schaffer says.
Schaffer says Iowa isn’t a state that normally has many natural disasters, so most of the time Iowa Red Cross volunteers go to other states. Red Cross chapters across the state at one point had 36 shelters set up to help with the tornado and flood relief. Schaffer says in the past several weeks the Red Cross has helped thousands of Iowans did a survey of those who were impacted.
Schaffer says they had 3,275 homes that were destroyed, 3,821 with major damage, 1,904 with minor damage, and 3,303 that were affected. All those homes added up totals is 12,303. Schaffer says they not only help people get back into homes, but they also help them with other necessities.
Schaffer says people sometimes evacuate with only the clothes they are wearing, they need medications, they may’ve found a place to live and need first month’s rent, and the Red Cross tries to help them with all those situations. Schaffer says the Red Cross has provided over 670,000 meals, over 28,000 cleanup kits, and over 11,000 hygiene kits to flood and tornado victims. All the help takes money and Schaffer says they could still use donations.
"Right now we have total estimated costs of about $12.5 million, that might go up just a little bit," Schaffer says. She says they’ve raised about $4.8 million that has been designated for the flood and tornado recovery in Iowa. Schaffer says you can send a check to the Red Cross and target the money for Iowa.
She says if you want to designate the money, you can put "Iowa floods" or "Iowa tornadoes" in the memo line.
Or she says you can donate to the national disaster relief fund at the Red Cross website . You can also call 1-866-help-now. Schaffer says people answer the call to donate and volunteer when they hear about the national disasters, but they also hope people will continue donating for the ongoing work of the Red Cross.
Schaffer says even when they are in the middle of a large disaster response, they are still responding to single family fires every day in their communities. Schaffer says money and volunteers are needed to meet those everyday needs too. For more information on volunteering, visit the Red Cross website , or call 1-866-get-info.