MOLINE, Ill. — The Quad Cities & West Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross' volunteers are packing for the journey to Kentucky, aiding those affected by Friday, Dec. 10's tornadoes.
Damaging winds and tornadoes tore through the Midwest last week, and five states were left devastated in their aftermath. In Kentucky, specifically, several dozen people died and many were left without heat, water or electricity.
The Red Cross, according to a Monday news release, has sent trained disaster workers to areas affected, and the volunteers will help with sheltering, damage assessment, emergency supplies and health services for those impacted by the tornadoes.
QC Red Cross Executive Director Trish Barnett said the organization has not asked for material donations such as clothing and food due to lack of space. Those can be donated later, and for now, the groups will supply them on-site. Monetary and blood donations are preferred.
"People are really generous and wanting to send Christmas items, holiday items, or furniture, (but) they don't have anywhere to put (them) and it kind of creates a secondary disaster," Barnett said. "There'll be time for that down the road, but right now they really just need emergency shelter, medications (and) food."
Barnett said the Red Cross began planning ahead of time when reports of the national disaster started surfacing.
"We did start working on it a couple of days ahead, with the weather forecasting (and) understanding there was a potential for this," Barnett said. "So we started meetings and planning all of that ahead of time, but nothing prepares you for that kind of devastation. Our hearts are with those impacted, but especially around the holidays too."
When making disaster plans, Red Cross reaches out to all volunteers and asks to plug in availability immediately. Barnett said volunteers answer quickly, so the response teams are able to get people lined-up and en route in a timely manner.
"It just amazes me how volunteers step away from their own family during the holidays to help those in need." Barnett said. "But that's what they do, and they're really good at it."
The Red Cross has implemented many requirements to keep people safe with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline people will focus on emergency sheltering and feeding, and later on they will be doing things like handing out supplies.
How you can help:
BLOOD: The Red Cross will host a blood drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17 at its location on 1100 River Drive in Moline. Appointments are required. Schedule yours here. All blood types are needed, but type O negative is highly encouraged to donate, as it's the type doctors turn to in emergency situations where there is no type to match a patient's blood type.
TIME: Sign up to do volunteer your time and talent for the Red Cross' Disaster Action Team. Mental health volunteers are also needed to help those dealing with the devastation of lives and possessions lost. Find opportunities to get involved near you here.