Sunday, March 9, 1997
Red Cross has no lack
of volunteers

BY B.G. GREGG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The phones are constantly ringing and the doors are frequently swinging at the Cincinnati office of the American Red Cross.

''I'm a nurse,'' says one woman, walking in off the street to offer her services. ''This is to help,'' says a man, handing the woman at the front desk an envelope with money.

The disaster has brought out the best in thousands of Tristaters, and in many nationwide.

About 6,000 people have offered to volunteer with Red Cross relief efforts. About 100 to 150 Red Cross workers trained in disaster relief have flown in from other parts of the country. Dozens of local doctors, nurses and businesses are helping out.

The Red Cross building at Sycamore and Seventh Street is the nerve center for relief efforts. One locked room is packed with suitcases because many out-of-town workers have not had time to unpack.

One room is filled with amateur radio operators. Another contains people taking calls from volunteers and those who want to donate money. Health-care providers fill another room.

Frank Smith, a Red Cross disaster worker from upstate New York, called this particular disaster a ''dream job.'' He helped with 13 disasters last year, and said things are going very smoothly in Cincinnati.

''The community support here has been phenomenal,'' he said. ''Our biggest effort is trying to sort through all the offers we have. And that's a good problem to have.''

Their task is made easier by Cinergy Corp. volunteers. The Red Cross wants to return every phone call from potential volunteers or donors, so Cinergy employees are helping to empty voice-mail boxes.

Judy Lindner, in charge of raising money, said Saturday morning that workers were still tallying donations from Thursday. More than $500,000 has been collected.

The major donors: Procter & Gamble Co., $200,000; Federated Department Stores Inc., $50,000; Scripps Howard Foundation, $25,000; BP Oil Co., $25,000; Toyota Motor Manufacturing Corp., $500,000 to four states and AT&T, $100,000 to four states plus the use of satellite service and calling cards.

The FreeStore/FoodBank had shipped out 210,000 pounds of supplies to nine counties by Friday evening. The Salvation Army has collected thousands of pounds of donations at its Northside warehouse and will continue to ship them throughout the region.

The United Methodist Church's Committee on Relief was helping in both Ohio and Kentucky.

Pre-selected disaster coordinators are chosen from throughout the country and trained to handle relief efforts, said Bob Blair, a volunteer based in Woodstock, Va.

Usually, the disaster coordinators are ministers. Each is assigned to handle disasters in a specific region, and then volunteers from throughout the country are sent to help.

The disaster coordinators receive supplies from a Louisiana warehouse.

Mr. Blair said the church's relief efforts won't stop next week.

''We'll probably be involved for a year and half,'' he said.

He said many churches help after natural disasters, and each seems to have a niche.

''The Baptists are known primarily for feeding people,'' he said. ''The Mennonites, they're busy bees known for fixing houses.''

A spokeswoman for the Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pa., said the organization had not yet decided how many people would be sent to the Tristate to help with relief.

The Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, said the Baptist Ministers Conference was collecting donations.

A 40-foot collection truck had been parked at his church.

''They're coming in slow, but it will really pick up tomorrow when the ministers get to hit their pulpits,'' he said.

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