Local volunteers offer relief to Southern Indiana and beyond

The relief effort across Southern Indiana and throughout the entire Midwest continued Monday afternoon.

So far, four Red Cross volunteers from St. Joseph, Elkhart and Kosciusko counties have been deployed, with dozens of other workers standing by for anticipated orders.

The American Red Cross alone currently has 22 shelters open in 11 different states, assisting 350 people displaced by Friday’s severe weather. More than 70 percent of those folks without a place to call home are Hoosiers.

In turn, donations seem to be dropping from the sky at the Red Cross of Elkhart County. By Monday morning, volunteers had answered dozens of contribution calls, the most they've seen since an EF3 twister ripped through Nappanee in 2007.

"It was a busy morning! The people of Elkhart County are really generous. One of the real joys of working here is to see the outpouring support,” Red Cross of Elkhart County interim director Frank Connolly said.

Since Friday, the agency has deployed hundreds of members from many of its 571 national chapters, including South Bend volunteer Robert Bickel who's currently en-route to Chattanooga, Tenn.

"I have a good idea of what to expect. I mean there's going to be a lot of people down there that will welcome us with open arms. Within the doors of the Red Cross it will be hectic, but we'll be getting things done,” Bickel said.

Then there are everyday folks like Harland Moon of Middlebury who have no major call center, just a calling heart.

"I was compelled to get something out to the general public that we all needed to pull together and do something to help them folks out,” Moon commented.

To date, Moon's collected more food, clothing and bathroom supplies than he can transport downstate in his personal trailer.

Meantime companies like the Silver Beach Hotel in St. Joseph are offering a free week’s stay to tornado victims. The special comes at absolutely no cost and is available between March 5, 2012 and March 18, 2012.

“I know what it is like to be without a home and to need help. We are in a position where we will have available rooms for the tornado victims and would like to give them a safe place to stay while they figure out what their next steps are,” Silver Beach Hotel owner Ramzi Fakhouri said.

The Red Cross says 91 percent of the support it receives will go toward humanitarian relief in places like Henryville, Ind.

"It can be hectic, but there are a lot of good people that know exactly what they're supposed to do when they get down there. That makes each and everyone of our jobs that much easier,” Bickel added.

If you'd like to help in the recovery effort, the American Red Cross is standing-by with a variety of donation outlets. You can dial its national call center at 1-800-RED-CROSS. You can also contribute online by visiting www.redcross.org or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

And if you’d like to donate to an organization aside from the American Red Cross, just click on the Big Red Bar for a list of other not-for-profits throughout Indiana.

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