San Francisco ready to help answer calls

September 13, 2008 9:59:03 AM PDT
24 phone lines at the United Way in San Francisco stand ready to take overflow 211 calls when the Gulf Coast call center backs up. 211 provides non-emergency social services and essential help for those forced out of their homes by Hurricane Ike.

"Evacuation routes, if certain parishes had to be evacuated, if people wanted information about financial assistance when they returned, curfews," says Maritza Villagomez, the United Way call center manager.

Volunteers took more than 1,700 calls from Hurricane Gustav victims last week.

"The call that really touched me was a young mom who was in a house with a one and two year old and the house had been flooded, her clothes were wet, she needed cleaning supplies, she had no food, the water wasn't safe," says Susan Jacobson, a United Way chief development officer.

Susan Jacobson found a nearby shelter for that mother and her children.

In addition to the long distance help being provided by the United Way, the Bay Area chapter of the Red Cross has 60 volunteers on the ground in Texas.

"We all learned a lot from Katrina so we are quite prepared for the hurricane season this year," says Susan Atherton, with the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.

The local Red Cross says supplies and cots are in place and volunteers are working with local agencies and FEMA to provide half a million meals daily.

"One of the things we're doing differently is where we put the distribution food centers and how we actually deploy the distribution of supplies into areas we know are likely to be hit hard," says Atherton.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter rescue team from San Francisco is also part of the extensive preparation plan.

"This is being looked at as a major incident and they're gearing up accordingly," says Wes Kitchel, with Search and Rescue Task Force 4.

If you would like to help donate to the American Red Cross or United Way click on the links below.

  • www.bayarea-redcross.org
  • www.uwba.org


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