Wait For Red Cross Long, Hot - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi


Wait For Red Cross Long, Hot

Leaders with the American Red Cross say thousands of Mississippians affected by Hurricane Katrina have received financial assistance. However, they say the need is still overwhelming so they're asking people to be patient.

Every time the organization sets up a financial assistance center, hundreds come looking for help.

On Saturday, the Red Cross was at the Isaiah Fredericks community center in Gulfport. Deborah Diggs got to the community center at 6:25 a.m. She received number 505.

By 10am Saturday morning, hundreds more people had arrived looking for help from the Red Cross. That would mean hours under the hot sun.

"Exhausting," said Diggs. "The heat is beating you down, but they're bringing us water and they're bringing us meals to eat, so they're taking care of us."

Chandra Levine had lost her patience. Saturday was the third time she had gone to wait in line for relief.

"You're talking about devastating people again in this kind of heat. These people have no business being in this kind of heat under these circumstances."

Still the heat was a small sacrifice for those who couldn't afford to leave.

Dwayne Grasky was among several wheelchair-bound people waiting his turn.

"They can't be in the heat as long, but you have to do what you have to do and do it in these times."

Kera Hunter's son is having a birthday soon.

"We're out of money. This is what you have to do. You do what you have to do for your family."

Although the process is slow, Red Cross workers insist they are moving as quickly as possible.

"I've heard that 24,000 people have been assisted in Mississippi. And our teams that we worked with yesterday and the few days before did 9,000 of those, so we're working as fast as we possibly can," Ben Smilowitz with the Red Cross said.

When people show up to wait for hours, there's no guarantee they'll get the help they need that day.

"The case workers are volunteers and these volunteers can only work until they drop," said Smilowitz. "People need to come and bring umbrellas, bring chairs. And at a certain point, if we realize that we've got too many and we can't service everyone, we're going to cut it off and they just need to understand that."

Johnny Anthony came to get assistance for himself and ended up a volunteer.

"What number?" said Anthony. "I don't have a number yet but I'm way in the back of the line. Way back there somewhere, but I don't have a number yet. I'm not really worried about it. If I don't see them, oh, well."

The Red Cross staff says people seeking the one time financial aid should bring a driver's license or photo identification. They say the amount of money you receive is based on the number of people in your household.

by Danielle Thomas

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