"Unfortunately, we've only raised about half of the over $2 billion that both Katrina and Rita are requiring of us," American Red Cross President Marty Evans tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
The Red Cross has been stretched thin this week, providing aid to victims of Hurricane Rita while still trying to help those affected by the devastating Hurricane Katrina.
"We are not a government agency, and we depend on the American people supporting the emergency services that we provide," Evans points out.
Besides raising financial support, she notes the organization is working hard at recruting and training volunteers to be able to expand services.
"We have about 165,000 people right now mobilized on this operation," she explains. "Unlike many operations in the past, we were kind of over and done with our work in about 30 to 45 days. We know this is going to take a lot longer because people are going to be in our shelters."
Evans expects affected people to depend on the organization's services for 60 days and perhaps longer.
She says, "We continue to take care of people that have suffered so many losses from Katrina. But we were able to open almost 250 additional shelters. Our total shelter population is now over 100,000. And we'll continue to provide sheltering as long as people need it, before they go back to their homes."
According to Red Cross statistics, before this year, the largest American Red Cross response in history was to the four hurricanes that struck in 2004: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Those efforts are miniscule when compared to what the Red Cross has done in 2005 for Katrina alone.
Money the Red Cross receives from donations will go to immediate disaster relief.
"This is for the shelter before, during and after the storm," Evans explains. "It's also for feeding, it's for health and mental health support, and it's for a small amount of financial assistance to help people get back on their feet to make that transition and then again, to go into the longer transition that the government supports."
Donations can be made by calling 1-800-HELP NOW, or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish), or online at www.redcross.org.
The Red Cross has already provided a Web site and hotline to help assist family members who are seeking news about loved ones in the aftermath of hurricanes. The "Family Links Registry" can be reached for registration via www.redcross.org or call 1-877-LOVED-1S. Evacuees wishing to inform loved ones of their locations can register their name by clicking on "Family Links Registry" on www.redcross.org.
"We're always looking at how we can do it better," she says, reacting to Smith's comments about the serious criticism the organization received for its slow response to Katrina.
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