Red Cross volunteers leave Youngstown to help with Florida clean up

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Some local American Red Cross volunteers are in the south to help with the potential aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

According to its website, 90 percent of the Red Cross’ work is done through volunteers.

Fourteen of those volunteers, along with four staff members, left from Youngstown Tuesday night. They are just part of a group of almost 30 people from the Valley heading to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

They’ll join the hundreds of workers on standby, armed with supplies and willing to lend a helping hand.

As Hurricane Matthew made landfall late Thursday night, 18 local Red Cross volunteers were already stationed in Florida, awaiting the storm.

“We’ve been planning for this probably for about a week, so everyone was on standby, ready to go as soon as we had destinations and assignments ready for them. They were en route and on their way,” said Kristen Gallagher, disaster program specialist of the Lake to River Red Cross chapter.

The Red Cross has 198 shelters set up along the east coast. Gallagher says about 27,000 people stayed at the shelters Thursday night into Friday.

That number is expected to grow.

As the second surge of volunteers heads south, the Mahoning Valley’s Emergency Response Vehicle is stocked to deliver supplies like food and water to those who have been affected by the storm.

The organization has over 1,800 disaster workers and 90 response vehicles ready to go. It has 30 trailers full of supplies, ready-to-eat meals, and clean-up and comfort kits.

“As the storm progresses up the east coast, we’ll kind of monitor everything that’s going on, and then send them as the requests for additional needs and support come in,” Gallagher said.

The Lake to River chapter is actively working with Red Cross organizations across the U.S. to aid in the multi-state response.

“They’re working with processing people into the shelters, getting them connected with family members in other parts of the country, as well as feeding.”

Monetary donations are desperately needed as this storm continues to progress. Gallagher says it’s extremely expensive to ship supplies, but it’s more cost-effective to send money so people can buy the supplies they need.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is urging residents to be generous, but extremely cautious, when responding to requests for donations to help those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

DeWine says there are always con artists and scammers who try to take advantage when disasters like this happen. There are some common warning signs to look for to determine if it’s a scam:

  • The “charity’s” name is similar to a well-known, nationally or internationally-recognized charity
  • Callers use high-pressure tactics to request immediate donations
  • The caller is hesitant or unable to answer questions
  • The caller offers to pick up donations immediately instead of waiting to receive them in the mail
  • The caller requests checks to be made to a person instead of the charity
  • The caller asks that the money be sent through a transfer service, such as MoneyGram or Western Union, or that you purchase and provide information found on prepaid cash, gift cards or through iTunes
  • If an organization calls and asks for a donation, the caller should be able to provide the name of the organization and the location of its principal place of business.

To see if a specific charity is registered in Ohio, use the search tool on the Attorney General’s website.

To report a scam, call the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-555-1212 or file a complaint online.