Red Cross, others accepting donations to help disaster victims

Posted March 12, 2011, at 5:37 p.m.
Last modified March 12, 2011, at 6:45 p.m.

People across Maine have been calling the Pine Tree chapter of the American Red Cross asking if they can volunteer to help the victims of Friday’s tsunami and 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

They can’t volunteer with the Red Cross, Gretchen O’Grady, emergency services director for the chapter, said Saturday, but Mainers can donate to the organization or another reputable nonprofit that will deliver aid to the earthquake victims, she said.

American Red Cross chapters, as far as O’Grady knew Saturday, had not been called upon for volunteers.

“We have to step back in any kind of disaster like this. Each country is allowed one Red Cross in its jurisdiction. The Japanese Red Cross is well-funded, well-organized and well-trained,” she said. “At this point I’m sure it’s chaotic. What we’re hearing is that there are boots on the ground. They’re advanced in [Japan] with emergency response and their training, but they’re looking at a disaster the size they haven’t seen before — no one has.”

People can donate to the Red Cross at redcross.org and specify that their money go to earthquake and tsunami victims. The organization respects those requests.

Time Warner Cable after getting word of the disaster announced that all calls placed by its digital phone customers to Japan will be free through April 15, including both residential and business class customers. That condition, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in a press statement Saturday, will be retroactive for all calls placed on March 11.

“We have seen an increase in the number of calls made by our customers to family, friends and colleagues in Japan who have been touched by the events that occurred earlier today,” Britt said. “They are all in our thoughts and we hope that this program removes a small measure of worry from our customers.”

Time Warner Cable has about 100,000 digital phone customers in Maine, according to spokesman Andrew Russell. Time Warner customers making calls to Japan do not need to make any changes to their accounts in order to take advantage of this program, the release said.

People who would like to volunteer with the Red Cross should call their local chapter now and ask to be trained as a disaster volunteer so they could be called upon for future disasters, O’Grady said.

“We need trained volunteers, not spontaneous ones. People see these scenes on television and they want to do something, but we need people who know how to respond,” she said Saturday.

People who are missing someone near the disaster site can visit icrc.org/familylinks to see if their loved one is safe.

Other organizations accepting donations for victims of the earthquake include:

The Red Cross

Save The Children

World Food Programme

Mercy Corps

Oxfam

BDN reporter Matt Wickenheiser contributed to this story.

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