The Red Cross' Southwest Service Center here in Houston is a hub for activities in five states, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Oklahoma. It's now the nerve center for relief efforts in and around New Orleans. The Red Cross' Margaret O'Brien-Molina is in the middle of the action. "There's not a truck moves out, a kitchen that's set-up, food that has to be ordered, people who have to be ordered, cars gotten for them, hotel rooms, shelters. Everything, from calling them up, finding out who the volunteers are who have the special training, all of that starts here."
Thousands of Red Cross volunteers are using Houston as a staging area as they wait for assignments in Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere. Mobile kitchens are also being dispatched from Houston, heading to areas hardest hit by Katrina. O'Brien-Molina says the Red Cross could spend upwards of $130 million on Katrina relief efforts.
As she reviews a situation report on relief efforts so far, she says this could be the largest Red Cross response in history. "As we're trying to get our arms around it or get an idea of what this is going to be like, we're told prepare yourself for all of last year's hurricanes, imagine all of those hurricanes that hit Florida, and roll them all into one, and that's what we're going to be doing here," she says.
Thousands of the Lousiana evacuees are here in the Houston-area now, some in shelters in Mont Belvieu and Baytown. The Red Cross' Russell Hubbard says those shelters have been busy, with about 100 people in each shelter. Collectively, the Red Cross has sheltered 40,000 evacuees in five states.
For information on giving to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, the number is 1-800-Help-Now, or the website, http://www.redcross.org/