Cash donations best for storm recovery efforts, says Red Cross director
Even well-intentioned donated items can become 'almost a second disaster' without proper co-ordination
The New Brunswick director of the Canadian Red Cross is urging people not to drop off donated items to emergency shelters and warming centres without first checking with local groups dealing with ice storm recovery efforts.
Even well-intentioned donations, such as water and blankets, become "almost a second disaster, or a disaster within a disaster" to deal with when they're not co-ordinated, and they may not be what's really needed, said Bill Lawlor.
Cash is best, he said, as Red Cross personnel continue to assess exactly what assistance is required by those affected by ongoing power outages from last week's ice storm.
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Nearly 12,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity as of mid-afternoon Tuesday.
The bulk of the outages are on the Acadian Peninsula, where 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces from the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown arrived Monday to help.
Lawlor, who has about 40 Red Cross personnel "on the ground," has also requested additional support from the Red Cross in Quebec.
"Further to the premier's announcement [Monday] of asking us to become a bit more engaged and do some needs assessment, we're going to beef up our capacity, particularly in the Acadian Peninsula, so we can really start to dig a little deeper and find out what some of these needs may be," he said.
To that end, the Red Cross launched an appeal for financial donations on Monday.
"I've been doing this almost 19 years now and we've had lots of interesting disasters and challenges" in New Brunswick, said Lawlor, but nothing of this magnitude.
Lawlor said it's "a little premature" to know exactly what the donated money will be used for until the needs assessment is completed.
The resources will be directed to the most urgent needs, he said. One example could be helping individuals who can't afford to replace spoiled food.
"It's important for donors and the public to know that … funds that are raised will certainly be used for those in the greatest need, but we don't want to duplicate other efforts, you know, whether that be government assistance or insurance."
"By and large, people are saying, 'I stayed in my home, I really wanted to, but now it's getting a little chilly and I need to go to a warming centre.'"
The Red Cross is managing shelters in Shippagan, Caraquet and Bas-Caraquet on the Acadian Peninsula and has provided cots, blankets and other supplies to dozens of other shelters.
Anyone wishing to make a financial donation to the New Brunswick Ice Storm 2017 appeal can do so online at redcross.ca, by calling 1-800-418-1111, or by visiting any Red Cross office.
NB Liquor customers can also make donations at any of its 44 corporate stores through a prompt-at-cash campaign announced on Tuesday. The campaign runs until Feb. 4 at 9 p.m.
Premier Brian Gallant announced the provincial government will give $100,000 to food banks to provide groceries to New Brunswickers in the regions hardest hit by the storm.
The government is also setting up a disaster relief program to give residents the financial support they need to replace lost items, Gallant said.
With files from Information Morning Moncton