The spirit of the Volunteer State is in full swing as Tennessee prepares to accommodate evacuees from the Carolinas in the wake of Hurricane Florence, but emergency response organizations are calling for donations as well as patience as relief efforts begin.
For groups like the Red Cross of East Tennessee, relief efforts already have begun, but are expected to expand once the course and impact of the storm become clearer.
“Florence is slowing down now, but with rain and people still evacuating, we’re waiting to see exactly what the storm does so we can respond accurately,” agency Disaster Program Manager Kristin Manuel said. “In Tennessee, we’re managing what we can to help people entering the state.”
The Red Cross has opened shelters in Knoxville, Kingsport area and Chattanooga in anticipation of evacuees, but none had checked in as of Friday afternoon.
“Human nature is human nature. ... We’re waiting to see how many people need our help locally, since many waited until today (Friday) to leave,” Manuel said.
While organizations assess what assistance is needed, concerned citizens are encouraged to be patient but prepared in volunteer efforts.
“(The Red Cross) can only take volunteers who have gone through the application process and a background check. ... Anyone can apply now and we will get them started whenever we can,” Manuel said. “We’ve opened shelters and we’re taking donations, but the effort is just starting.”
Similarly, the Federal Emergency Management Administration calls for interested volunteers to avoid knee-jerk “self-deploying,” and to sign up through a specific organization.
“There will be volunteer needs for many months, often many years, after the disaster — especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period,” FEMA’s Responsible Volunteering Guide reads. “... Wait until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Sign up to volunteer, and wait to travel until opportunities have been identified.”
In the meantime, East Tennessee residents can make supply, blood and monetary donations to benefit victims of the storm.
The local Red Cross is seeking donations of bottled water, deodorant and toothpaste for evacuees. To make a supply donation, contact the East Tennessee Red Cross at 865-584-2999 for details and to check what supplies are still needed.
To donate supplies to the Salvation Army, visit give.helpsalvationarmy.org. The Salvation Army warns that clothing and furniture rarely are needed in disaster response and encourages donations be made to the Salvation Army community stores instead.
Save the Children is collecting online donations for children impacted by Hurricane Florence. Ten percent of the donations made to victims of Florence will go to the organization’s general Children’s Emergency fund.
Disaster relief donations can be made to the Red Cross at redcross.org, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.
Donations to provide medicine and other aid to victims of the storm can be made through the Americares disaster relief foundation at secure.americares.org/.
According to the Red Cross, Hurricane Florence has caused more than 120 blood drives to canceled in Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Blood donation appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
The Alnwick Community Center has offered to open a shelter if needed, but it is currently on standby. Should it open, interested volunteers should contact the center at 865-230-2225.
Red Cross volunteer applications and opportunities can be found at redcross.org/volunteer.
More emergency volunteer opportunities will be posted through the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters website: www.nvoad.org.