American Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Central Texas awarded a $1.5 million community grant to the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team on Tuesday.

The funds granted will be used to complete the construction of 30 new homes for families whose houses were destroyed in the 2011 Bastrop wildfires. The Recovery Team is a non-profit, non-government affiliated organization dedicated to providing assistance to uninsured and underinsured low-income families who were affected by the wildfires. The fire charred 34,000 acres of land, turning 1,691 homes to ash. Concerned citizens as well as survivors of the disaster formed the organization to help affected families.

Suwetha Amsavelu, president of the American Red Cross Club at UT, said members of the student organization pitched in last year to help a Bastrop woman who was displaced from her home by the wildfires. 

“We were only able to help one woman, but even years later there are still so many of the affected out there,” Amsavelu said. “This grant will help so many more people.”

Janice Butler, the executive director of the Recovery Team, lost two houses in the wildfires. 

“I was really fortunate to have insurance to pay to rebuild one of my homes,” Butler said. “Other families are not so fortunate, but through cut costs and donations we are able to build [30 houses] with the bare necessities between $45,000 and $50,000 dollars, and the families are just so thankful.”

In the past two years the Recovery Team has been able to build 79 homes for affected families, and with the new grant the team’s goal is to complete the new homes by April 2014.

“Thirty families who remained on our waiting list for assistance will now be able to rebuild their lives because of this grant,” said Christine Files, president of the Recovery Team. “We are so thrilled, and we hope this serves as an incentive for the Central Texas community to help us finish the recovery efforts that have been started.”

Assisting with the recovery program is the Mennonite Disaster Service, an organization that sends volunteers from the northern states and Canada to build homes at no cost to the families or the organization. These volunteers make it possible for houses to be built at such a low cost because they do not accept payment for their work.

“These families experienced devastation, numbness and fatigue,” said Kevin King, the executive director of the service. “We want to create a storm of compassion and be a new generation of generosity and healing hope for Texas.”

WACO — American Red Cross crews from across Texas are being sent to the site of an explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco where multiple injuries have been reported.

Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster says her group is working with emergency management officials in the town of West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes. She says teams from Austin to Dallas and elsewhere are being sent to the community north of Waco.

A West Fire Department dispatcher says the explosion happened Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant. She says any casualties would be taken to hospitals in Waco. It was unclear how many were injured or if any fatalities occurred.

The Department of Public Safety says troopers have been transporting the injured to hospitals.

Adrianne Fore, David Hernandez and Claire Stieg socialize during a benefit that was held at the CTC Garden Venue on Tuesday night. The benefit aimed to raise funds for victims of wild fire and support the American Red Cross.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

Live music could be heard outside of the CTC Garden venue as people gathered Tuesday at an event created to raise funds for the American Red Cross of Central Texas to aid the wildfire victims of Bastrop County.

The event was initiated in response to the damage caused by the fires, said Lori Schneider, owner of Cupcake Bar and creator of the event. She said the entirety of the proceeds are going directly to the American Red Cross, which will go toward providing aid and supplies for people who have experienced loss because of the fires.

“It’s good for [the people of Bastrop] to know they aren’t alone,” said Jessica Dickman, president of Texas Belles, a UT event-planning organization that aided in the planning of the event. “Austin is such a giving community and so open, it’s a perfect place to have an event like this where you can relax with people you know and benefit the people you don’t.”

Dickman said the event featured live music from five different bands that changed every hour from 5 to 10 p.m. Food vendors and a bar set up by 360 Vodka donated their services and took donations that went toward the proceeds of the event, and a silent auction and raffle with donated items from Austin businesses also encouraged people to contribute more to the cause, she said.

The event’s projected monetary goal was set at around $1,000, but with close to 200 people in attendance it may surpass that, said Schneider.

Vendors in attendance such as Kellie’s Kandies & Cookies had heart-shaped cookies set at a suggested price of $2 a cookie.

The company is also doing its part in helping with the Bastrop fires, said Kellie’s Kandies & Cookies’ spokesperson. She said it will sponsor Cookies for Bastrop, a cookie drive in which customers can buy cookies to send to fire victims with a personalized note from the buyer written on each bag. All of the proceeds will also be donated to the American Red Cross.

“Austin is a community not like normal big cities,” said Dawn Boyd, who sat enjoying the live music. “I’ve seen it grow from the early ’60s, but it has never lost that small town feel.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Musicians, food vendors hold fundraiser for wildfire victims.

Biology Senior Kellen Burke donates blood on campus Wednesday afternoon as part of a blood drive hosted by Student Government and administered by The American Red Cross. The drive, held Tuesday and Wednesday for victims of deadly spring storms, collected 46 unites of blood, just 4 fewer than the goal of 50 units.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

The recent Student Government blood drive could provide relief for more than 130 victims of this spring’s deadly storms.

Tornadoes ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala., in April and Joplin, Mo., in May, leaving dozens dead and many more injured. After the disasters, University-wide representative Yaman Desai authored a resolution in honor of the victims.

“We just wanted to give support and give them help whatever way we could, and we found out this was the best way we could do it,” Desai said, regarding the blood drive which took place Tuesday and Wednesday.

He said it was a great way for students to help save lives and only takes about 40 minutes of their day. Nursing representative Jaclyn Rosenthal contacted the American Red Cross because she wanted the donations to have a national impact.

“Blood drives are a great way to help disaster-relief efforts because the national blood bank needs to be quickly replenished,” she said.

The Red Cross provided the trailer and supplies needed for the drive with no cost to SG.

Jessica Amaro, donor recruitment representative of the American Red Cross, said contrary to misconceptions, anyone can donate as long as they are at least 17 years of age and in reasonably good health. Donors are tested by the Red Cross to determine their health status and avoid collecting blood that might contain harmful pathogens. Eligible donors’ blood goes to a Red Cross laboratory in Dallas the morning after donation and is analyzed to determine whether the relief organization can use the blood.

Amaro said the blood collected here usually stays in Texas, but it can be shipped to other states in periods of critical shortage. She said although the disasters happened weeks ago, many victims suffered traumas that require multiple surgeries. The blood from the SG drive will go to hospitals in Missouri, Alabama and Texas.

“When people think ‘blood’ they think immediate, but it’s not always immediate,” Amaro said.

She said 10 to 15 percent of blood comes from high school students and colleges, which means a decrease during summer months. Amaro said the Red Cross and SG hoped to collect 50 units during this drive, but she was satisfied with the 46 units it brought in. Each unit of blood can save about three lives.

History senior Eric Ramos said he has donated since he was 17 because his blood type is O negative. People with O negative are universal donors, so their blood will be used in cases where it is impossible to determine the blood type of an injured person.

“Whenever there’s a blood drive on campus I stop by and donate,” Ramos said. “It’s just my way of helping out.”
He said he donates about six to seven times a year but still hasn’t gotten used to needles, and blood banks usually try to contact him because of his uncommon blood type.

Printed on 06/30/2011 as: Student Government hosts blood drive