Recent disasters severely impact Red Cross budget

The Elk-Cameron Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross has reported its operating budget has been severely impacted by recent disasters which have occurred throughout the area.According to Elk-Cameron Chapter Program Director Patti Micale, the local organization spent more on disaster relief in November than all of last year.This allotment consists of $5,000 of their budget, which was used to aid residents impacted by widespread flooding in early December, as well as from house fires in Kersey and Ridgway."We have no reserves and are going on a week-to-week basis," said Bob Newell, Elk-Cameron chapter executive director.Micale explained that the chapter provides $500 to flooding victims to use for repairs to help put their home back to a livable condition. These costs typically include the purchase of a new hot water tank or furnace repairs."We talk to other partners like the Salvation Army and Northern Tier in trying to get their home fixed if there is anywhere between $1,500 or $2,000 in damage," Micale said.If the affected area is declared a disaster area by the governor, then the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) takes over. In order for this to happen specific criteria must be met, including a certain threshold of damage.According to Newell, the local organization's two main goals are to rebuild its finances and build its volunteer base."We are chartered by Congress to be a non-governmental agency to respond to natural disasters," Newell added. During the widespread flooding that hit the area during the first week of December, the Red Cross opened a short-term warming center in Ridgway's west end. The center aided residents who could not travel across the bridge to access the warming center set up at the Central Hose Fire Department. The CHFD's Auxiliary's warming center remained open overnight, providing cots and blankets for those displaced from their home by the flooding.For more on this story see the Jan. 3 edition of The Daily Press.