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State Red Cross moves flood-relief headquarters to Anmoore

by Matt Harvey

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR

ANMOORE -- The American Red Cross moved its disaster headquarters for the recent flooding in West Virginia from Charleston to Anmoore on Tuesday.

Workers from Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Kentucky -- and West Virginia, of course -- scurried about an array of boxes, phones and the requisite coffee station.

But why here instead of at the state's capital, where the headquarters had opened over the weekend, and where nearby flooding had been deadly?

Red Cross officials said Harrison County is more centrally located among the 19 counties hit hard by last weekend's floods. Charleston was at the southern tip of the flooding.

Plus, property damage was extensive among several North Central counties.

"Out of all the affected counties, we identified the ones up in this area as the most affected," said Ward Johnson, director of the headquarters.

And Anmoore was a good choice because the site also was used during flooding earlier this decade, said Joyce Chapman, assistant director of the headquarters.

"We already had phone lines installed before, and they're still in the ceiling," said Chapman, who's from Ravenswood. "All we had to do was have the phone company turn them on instead of having the lines installed. It's a lower cost to us."

Flood victims shouldn't, however, hop in their cars and head to Anmoore. Instead, Johnson said the Red Cross would release a toll free number sometime today that victims should call.

A caseworker will take those calls and relay the information to Red Cross teams in the field, who will in turn try to meet needs when possible within the same day, said Maggie Christie, a Red Cross Family Service Officer at the headquarters.

After canvassing areas hit by the flooding, the Red Cross estimates about 600 homes have been affected, Johnson said.

Before the agency closes the Anmoore headquarters, probably within three weeks, "we will contact, either by phone or personally, every family that has a destroyed or major damaged home," Johnson said. He added that the Red Cross would not guarantee a visit to homes it considered to have suffered minor damage.

Johnson, of Payson, Ariz., said the Red Cross had budgeted about $300,000 for West Virginia flood help, although he wasn't sure yet if all that money would be spent.

After setting up sites initially to provide food and shelter for flood victims, the work turns to specific needs of individuals. Much of the relief effort is at that stage now.

Red Cross caseworkers identify needs after interviewing victims, then the agency provides vouchers to area stores, Christie said.

"It's providing what the client needs, and also supporting merchants in the communities that get hit," Christie said. "A lot of times, merchants have it tough in (disasters), too."

An example of Red Cross help: Someone who had to leave home in a hurry might return to a waterlogged wardrobe. While the Red Cross won't replace those damaged items, it will cut a check so victims at least can buy a change of clothes, Christie said.

Christie, of Appleton, Wis., reminded that Red Cross assistance is free. The agency generates funds through donations, and while Christie and Johnson are paid for their work, a good deal of the agency's efforts at the local level are done through volunteer work.

To donate money or your time to the Red Cross, call (800) HELPNOW, Christie said.

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