Red Cross Reminds Donors of Continuous Local Needs - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/07/05

Red Cross Reminds Donors of Continuous Local Needs

Savannah's Chapter of the American Red Cross has had a busy week helping families displaced by two different fires.

The latest fire was this morning on Ohio Avenue. Firefighters say it started in the kitchen, pretty much destroying it. Fortunately, much of the rest of the house was spared.

The woman and her four children who live there were not injured. Firefighters were on the scene within two minutes. They are still looking into the exact cause but say it was most likely accidental.

Residents in the Hammocks apartment complex on Whitemarsh Island are dealing with the aftermath of a fire there yesterday. It started around 2pm. At least ten units were damaged, four severely, when a turkey fryer ignited and caused the whole side of a building to catch fire.

Today the Hammocks regional manager told WTOC that the person living in that apartment already had a lease violation letter in his file for having the turkey fryer on his property. No charges are being pressed since it is considered an accident and the complex is relocating residents while the mess is cleaned up.

During both of these fires the Red Cross was right there, assisting firefighters and the families affected. The question is, have many of the necessary donations on which the Red Cross depends to provide this help gone elsewhere this year, say to hurricane victims?

Luckily, the donations at this point have remained steady. But the Red Cross is worried about what will happen after the holidays when the giving season stops and the fires continue.

"We spend roughly $700 per family helping them get started, and when you figure we have 220 to 230 house fires a year, you can do the math," said Dan Kurtz with the Savannah chapter. "It's a substantial amount of money we spend here in our area."

From hotels to linens to new clothes, the Red Cross tries to help with as much as it can. While a lot of people have made a lot of donations just for hurricane victims, the Red Cross says the need for donations for local disasters has not stopped, and they are worried about the future when this giving season ends.

"What we're worried about is after the holidays, people get back to their regular life and that's when stuff might drop off," said Kurtz. "They may forget."

And considering that the Red Cross has been fighting against being in the red, this could cause a problem. "The simple fact of the matter is, in the past several years donations have been low," said Kurtz. "So we have been in a situation that we draw on funds from the bank, in kind of a savings if you will, to pay the bills."

Bills that are paid for by community members to take care of their own neighbors, almost on a daily basis.

"We need a steady supply of money, cause we're constantly, every day, paying it out," said Kurtz. "We need a steady supply to help these families get on their feet after a disaster."

While fires are what a majority of the money goes to when it comes to local disasters, the Red Cross also uses the funds for floods and anything else that is considered a natural disaster.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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