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Red Cross seeks extra help for fire victims

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local officials with the American Red Cross are kicking off a campaign to collect money for victims of house fires.

"We just have so many fires in West Virginia," said Red Cross West Virginia Region spokeswoman Krista Farley Raines. "On average, two families a day in West Virginia lose everything in a house fire."

Over the course of the past year, Red Cross staff and volunteers stepped in to help about 750 families affected by house fires in the state, Raines said. In December alone, volunteers responded to 70 fires in West Virginia.

"We had five yesterday," Raines said Friday.

On average, the Red Cross provides $1,250 in assistance to every family they help in a house fire. Red Cross staff are asking individuals or corporations to donate $1,250 -- enough to help an average family -- as part of their Heroes for Fire Victims program. The program kicks off Wednesday and runs through March 30.

Raines said local Red Cross groups gave about $500,000 in direct financial assistance to West Virginia families over he course of the year. In addition to helping fire victims, Red Cross staff and volunteers helped 60 families affected by flooding or storm damage, she said. Raines said local Red Cross staff are still helping families recover from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

"Everything we do is reliant on donations," Raines said. "We receive no federal funding."

Nor are the vast majority of Red Cross relief workers paid.

"These are volunteers," Raines said. "These aren't paid staff who go out in the middle of the night to help these families."

Betty Myers, a Red Cross volunteer who responded to a fire in Putnam County on Dec. 18, is typical, Farley said. When Myers responded to help the victims of a fire on Turkey Creek Road, she noticed that the woman who owned the home was standing outside in bare feet, having barely escaped the blaze.

Farley said Myers took the gloves off of her hands and gave them to the woman, to serve as makeshift foot coverings until a pair of shoes could be found.

The Red Cross provides meals and shelter for families displaced by floods, fires or disasters and provides financial and other assistance families need to get back on their feet. Farley said donations to the organization usually slow down after the holidays, but the Red Cross needs donations all the time.

Red Cross volunteers are also always in need of donations of blood, especially O negative, A negative and B negative.

For more information or to donate, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800RED-CROSS. To volunteer or donate locally, visit or write the American Red Cross West Virginia Region, 113 Lakeview Drive, Charleston, WV 25301 or call 304-340-3650.

The Red Cross also has regional offices in Clarksburg, Kearneysville, Lewisburg, Morgantown, Oak Hill and Parkersburg.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.

 


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