Red Cross still helping S.C. tornado victims despite pandemic

VIDEO: Red Cross still helping S.C. tornado victims despite pandemic challenges

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - More than 300 people lost their homes in the recent tornadoes, and the Red Cross is still working to get them back on their feet.

It is a 24/7 job for the Red Cross, and because their work relies nearly completely on volunteers, the coronavirus pandemic is making their work that much harder.

“We’re still performing our Red Cross mission in the community, its just looking a little bit different,” Red Cross spokseperson Ashley Henyan said. “We’re just changing the way we do the mission, we’re not what we do. And so we want people to know that we are still here and we will continue to be here to help, even in this very challenging environment."

Although the Red Cross does not know yet how much extra costs they will incur in South Carolina, around the county they are estimating spending an addition $150 million to maintain safety during the pandemic.

The tornadoes that hit last week were the strongest we’ve seen since 1984, and the Red Cross was there immediately.

But volunteers are now taking extra safety steps. They are driving separate cars, which is adding additional costs for gas. They are all wearing the necessary equipment like masks. And they are housing all of the families in separate hotel rooms, spanning across three hotels.

The Red Cross is also doing all mental health support and case work virtually. All of these changes create additional costs.

But after finding housing, feeding, and assessing the damage, officials with the Red Cross say they are now working through the recovery phase.

The Red Cross is currently in need of financial donations and volunteers, but they say they are not in need of donated goods.

“Their homes were completely destroyed, so you can imagine if you don’t have a home new clothes and your new pots and pans to, that stuff’s not going to do you any good," Henyan said. "So what they need and what we need is financial support, and with that we can make sure that we are getting the right kind of help to the right folks at the right time.”

The Red Cross will receive a $100,000 grant Thursday from South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association.

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