United Way, Red Cross helping with disaster relief

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Within Freeborn County there are a few ways to seek assistance or help those affected by floodwaters.

The United Way of America announced Tuesday the creation of a 2008 Midwest Flood Recovery Fund.

“United Way is committed to the mid- and long-term needs of the communities affected by this disaster,” said Brian A. Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way. “We intend to be a constant and very visible partner to the individuals and families of this region in their efforts to rebuild their lives.”

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According to the United Way, seven states have been severely impacted by recent floods, with thousands of people evacuated and great destruction to homes and businesses.

The fund will support the rebuilding of lives and communities, “ensuring quality education, improving the financial stability of those affected and improving access to health care, including mental health services for those affected by the tragedy,” according to a United Way statement.

Locally, United Way of Freeborn County Executive Director David Bonnerup recommends the use of the 211 number, which gives access to a nationwide network of shelters. If people in Freeborn County have family in the flood-ravaged areas, they can be located through the 211 number.

“I think this talks about the United Way organization — that it’s a nationwide organization that deals with local issues, local problems,” Bonnerup said.

“Every area is unique, but they stepped up to the plate.”

People who need services or want to offer help can also dial 211.

The Freeborn County chapter of the American Red Cross sent two volunteers to areas in Iowa affected by the floods. One is helping establish communications with the Emergency Response Communications Trailer.

“In a lot of places down there, a lot of phones don’t work,” said Executive Director Jeanie Opdahl.

Local volunteers are helping set up service centers with computers and other forms of communication.

The local Red Cross chapter is accepting donations to send to Iowa. Donors can designate where money is spent or ask it be put toward the general disaster fund to be used anywhere in the country.

Opdahl said she has had some requests for assistance from within Freeborn County. Most requests are for cleanup kits or information on how to clean up after a flood. A limited number of cleanup kits are left, she said.

To donate to the 2008 Midwest Flood Recovery Fund go online to LiveUnited.org or call (866) 404-5826. Checks can be mailed to United Way c/o One World Communications, 5195 Hamstead Village Way, Suite 135, New Albany, OH 43054. Checks should be made out to the United eWay and include “United Way 2008 Midwest Flood Recovery Fund” on the memo line.

To request assistance or information from the Red Cross call 373-4544.