PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the American Red Cross pours in resources for disaster relief in Louisiana, volunteers at the Philadelphia chapter are lending their ears to help those in need.
When those affected by the floods down south called the Red Cross, officials with the national office decided the phones would be picked up in Philadelphia.
“National made the decision to send the calls to us because of our experience,” explained Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, CEO of the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania.
“We fielded over 10,000 calls from people in distress in Louisiana. At the peak of it we answered 2,500 calls related to Louisiana in one day,” Hughes said. “We provide them with information – where the shelters are located, how they can contact FEMA, what they can do to get support from other organizations who are partnering with us who are handling food.”
The call center, on a typical day, takes in a few hundred calls. For this major disaster Hughes said 96 people are working the phones. Eighty of them are volunteers and someone is always around to pick up.
“We want to make sure there’s no gap. This is a very stressful situation for our neighbors in Louisiana,” she said.
The local Red Cross chapter also sent 18 volunteers down south – experts in shelter management and disaster assessment. “Highly trained specialized volunteers,” Hughes explained. “We have one volunteer in Louisiana – this is her third trip. Louisiana is a disaster-prone part of our nation and so we sent her down to help three times.”
Hughes said the Red Cross response to the Louisiana flooding will cost $30 million. The organization is asking for donations but also for others to step up and make a difference.
“If you volunteer now you’ll receive the training and when the next disaster strikes you’re prepared,” she said. “And we’re prepared to help the community.”