American Red Cross in Indiana lends a hand in Harvey relief

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The American Red Cross continues to direct thousands of Hoosier phone calls and in-person visits at their offices as people look for ways to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

Kate Hayward, Red Cross strategic development officer, said this hurricane was an unprecedented disaster and the agency is employing every resource available to help the victims. So far, she said, Indiana has lent the Texas Red Cross six emergency response vans and 60 Hoosier volunteers to help staff shelters and food lines and organize relief efforts.

“Last night, we had over 32,000 people in Red Cross shelters across Houston,” Hayward said. “What they get when they come to a shelter is a clean place to sleep, clean blankets and food. We’re providing thousands and thousands and thousands of hot meals to people every day, which is so important because they’re hungry and so important because they also need the comfort of a hot meal.”

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Hayward said the best way for the average Hoosier to help now is to donate money. That cash goes with volunteers to Texas so they can buy exactly what victims need without having to ship items from Indiana.

Purchasing relief items also helps buoy the slumping Texas economy.

“The economy in Texas is also going to be devastated and so for the Red Cross to come and reinvest in the economy, it’s going to make such a terrific difference,” Hayward said. “As much as we can, we try to buy items locally. We will be buying water, we will be buying diapers, all the things that people need to get back on their feet again after a disaster.”

“I cant imagine losing everything or having to leave my pet at home or no place to go no shelters,” said Connie Brinkley, a volunteer with the Red Cross.

Brinkley began donating to the Red Cross in 1999 but began donating her time in 2005.

“It was during the hurricanes of Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which was very devastating,” Brinkley said. “We had a call center here in Indianapolis, one of five in the nation. It was endless hours of assisting clients from a telephone.”

Now she’s off the phone and about to hit the road.

“You’re going to be staged in Austin (Texas), but you might end up doing sheltering in Houston or feeding in another city,” said Victoria Eder, Brinkley’s supervisor during an orientation session, handing her an information packet and Red Cross debit card.

“I’m going into a disaster zone,” Brinkley told 24-Hour News 8. “It’s not even in the recovery stages yet. I’m prepared for whatever it’s going to take.”

“I am constantly amazed by the generosity of these folks who work for free and they’re willing to go and live in a shelter for two weeks and muck out people’s houses with them,” Hayward said, “and it’s absolutely incredible to think about.”

Throughout her two-week deployment, Brinkley will trade her Red Cross office for a shelter and serve food and distribute hygiene kits using funds from generous Hoosiers. Red Cross representatives said, in addition to needing people to volunteer for the two-week deployment, they’ll need volunteers to fill in for people like Brinkley, who is leaving her post working on Red Cross responses to house fires in Indiana.

If you’d like to donate to the American Red Cross, you can text “HARVEY” to 90-999 and your cellphone provider will add a $10 donation to Red Cross on your phone bill. You can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS to donate or visit them online at