SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The American Red Cross Day of Giving starts here at home. And, in nine other western states battling deadly and devastating wildfires during a historic season.
“Currently, we’re supporting 43 hotels that are housing 1,807 people in 725 rooms,” Anne Kratz told NewsChannel reporter Beth Farnsworth.
Kratz works in the Santa Barbara office as the local Regional Philanthropy Officer and has been associated with the non-profit since the 1990s.
Kratz said Red Cross first responders from the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura chapters are spread out, helping people impacted by the Creek Fire. The blaze is burning in Fresno and Madera Counties in the Sierra National Forest. As of today, CAL FIRE put the size at just over 220,000 acres and 18 percent containment.
“We’ve got people coming from as far away as the East Coast to help us here. It’s remarkable,” Kratz said. “And we are helping people in Oregon and Washington right now.”
Kratz added that local Red Cross crews are currently preparing to assist in the fire-weary states of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
“When the time comes our people, our local people, will drop everything in a moment’s notice to go help those people in Montana, to help those people in Alabama, to help those people in Louisiana.”
She noted that the 103 year old organization also has volunteers in states impacted by the Midwest derecho that hit in August and the recent watery wrath of Hurricane Sally.
“30,000 people are being helped by the Red Cross,” Kratz said.
“Is that a normal number?” Farnsworth asked.
“No. That’s high. That’s ALL at the same time,” Kratz responded. “That stretches all across the country, all of our partners … we have to be very strategic and very smart because we want to help everyone with all of their needs.”
Red Cross statistics show that 94 percent of its disaster responders are skilled and trained volunteers. Times of disaster are referred to as 'Grey Skies'; better times are known as 'Blue Skies.'
Phases during so-called 'Blue Skies' allow the local Red Cross chapters to prepare for large disasters. Volunteers also handle smaller emergencies and help provide groceries and meals to nearly 70,000 families in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties through community partners.
Kratz said COVID-19 has added a different type of challenge for them during the wildfire disasters.
“We’re doing a lot of virtual volunteer work. There are things such as financial things and logistics that can be handled virtually.”
However, the face-to-face need is also there in times of disaster during the pandemic. Kratz shared how that’s brought a different type of loss.
“One of the things that our volunteers really miss is that personal touch with the clients that come into the shelter, and wrapping that warm Red Cross blanket around their shoulders and telling them that they’re there for them and ‘It’s going to be alright.’ They miss that.”
To make a donation to the American Red Cross, click the following link: https://www.redcross.org/donate/cm/abc.html/?subcode=abc-pub