Vicksburg Red Cross winds down hurricane assistance|[10/05/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Officials of the local Red Cross wound down from “hurricane mode” this week after a whirlwind month of assisting evacuees of back-to-back hurricanes.

Local volunteers will coordinate with emergency management officials in Claiborne County today and Thursday to assist residents there whose homes were damaged in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Executive director Beverly Connelly said the residents will receive vouchers for cleaning supplies, clothing and housing-related supplies. The vouchers are redeemable at selected retail outlets.

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“If there’s still a desperate need, we can still help them. But now, everything is on a case-by-case basis,” Connelly said.

Calls about reimbursements for lost food during power outages continue, but Connelly said the local chapter has not issued those and has no plans to do so.

“Things went haywire with that at other assistance centers. We stuck to our guidelines,” Connelly said.

A strict identity verification system was used during its assistance application period for keeping aid abuse to a minimum, Connelly said.

“We asked for driver’s licenses, utility bills, apartment leases, hotel receipts and other forms of photo ID to keep things straight,” Connelly said.

The local chapter took financial assistance applications from more than 2,000 evacuees, and distributed more than $1 million in aid.

“We serviced our shelter people first. That made things run smoother than other centers,” Connelly said.

Two financial compliance officers from the organization’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., were in town this week to begin examining the chapter’s accounts.

“When you have millions in donations and contributions coming in, we have to make sure we follow guidelines and double-check the accounts,” Connelly said.

The Vicksburg Area Chapter stopped taking family assistance applications Sept. 16. The national hotline, 1-800-975-7585, is still operating for those who may not have applied for family assistance.