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Missourians pitch in to aid hurricane victims

Wednesday, September 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:19 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

It has been anything but quiet after the storms.

Within the past month, two major hurricanes have struck Florida. Hurricane Ivan, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of up to 160 mph Tuesday night, now menaces states on the Gulf Coast. Ivan has left thousands of victims in its wake and follows hurricanes Charley and Frances, which mobilized a national response that has included donations and local volunteers.

Columbia resident Dale Huffington is one of the thousands to lend a hand.

“We worked 12-hour shifts 10 days straight,” Huffington said of his work answering calls from Florida residents at a national Red Cross call center in Washington, D.C. “It was a very intense experience.”

In particular, Huffington remembers one hysterical woman who called with her three small children crying in the background.

“She lived in an apartment building where the roof had been blown off, and her landlord told her she had to leave immediately,” Huffington said. “She had no money and no place to go. We were able to help her, but something like that stays with you for a very long time.”

The Boone County chapter of the Red Cross has contributed four trained volunteers to the recovery. Two remain in Florida. Huffington, a retired MU faculty member and Red Cross board member, and John Souza, a mental health specialist at Fulton

State Hospital who counseled victims of the hurricanes in Florida, have returned.

Souza and Huffington volunteered for three weeks. Some volunteers, though, have been asked to stay on to help respond to Ivan, and Jutta Hopkins, director of the Boone County Red Cross chapter, is recruiting volunteers with expertise in health care, communications and construction experience to replace those returning home.

The Missouri Air and Army National Guard has deployed 30 members to set up emergency communications, and the Columbia Community Emergency Response Team, a civilian volunteer corps, has sent five members to Florida.

The Columbia response team works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dean Martin, division chief at the Columbia Fire Department and supervisor of the team, said this is its first emergency deployment.

Heather Duren, director of development at the Salvation Army of Boone County, also hoped to volunteer in Florida but said more people responded to the agency’s call than could be accommodated.

“It’s never a problem getting people to volunteer in an emergency situation,” said Duren, who emphasized that donations are more critical to relief efforts.

Thus far, Duren has collected about $1,000 in donations, and the local Red Cross, which hopes to raise $10,000, has raised $5,300 thus far.

The United Methodist Office of Creative Ministries in Columbia is collecting cash donations, hygiene supplies and what it calls flood buckets. The five-gallon buckets, which include a scrub brush, household cleaner, latex gloves and other items used to clean up after a flood, cost about $45 to assemble.

These items will be sent to a warehouse in Louisiana. Some will be dispersed to current hurricane victims; others will be used to replenish supplies and respond to future disasters.

“It took nearly 10 years for all the victims from the 1993 floods to fully recover,” said Mark Dumas, a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City and a volunteer coordinator for Creative Ministries. “Though we draw on money and other donations that come in while these hurricanes are on TV, it’s important for everyone to realize that the need is there long after most people have forgotten about the hurricanes.”


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