Southeast Missouri chapter of American Red Cross dealing with busy December

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross is having one of the busiest Decembers on record.

In the Red Cross' 11-county coverage area, case workers and other volunteers responded to nine house fires in the first nine days of the month and another fire Tuesday that destroyed an apartment complex in Caruthersville, Mo.

"Usually we'd be hitting our peak season in the next few weeks. But it came early," said Sara Gerau, development director of the Southeast Missouri chapter.

Families in Sikeston, Morley and Marble Hill are a few of the recent victims of fires. American Red Cross volunteers have responded to two home fires in Cape Girardeau since Nov. 1. The remaining December fires were in Butler, Pemiscot and New Madrid counties.

"I think the thing that hits closest to home is it's the holiday and in many of these fires there's children in the home," said Cheryl Klueppel, Southeast Missouri's Red Cross executive director.

Volunteers in Pemiscot County and in Caruthersville were immediately notified of the Tuesday apartment fire that affected eight families. As with any home fire, a case worker's first priority is to find shelter for the victims. In Caruthersville, a shelter was opened at Temple Baptist Church.

"They may have family or friends or neighbors to stay with or we can assist them with staying in a hotel for a few days so they can make plans for recovery," Klueppel said.

Bev Metheny, a Marble Hill case worker who has been with the local chapter five years, is helping a man whose home was destroyed by fire Friday. Not only did Metheny help him find shelter, but the Red Cross allotted him funds to buy food, clothing and shoes.

"If they have medical needs, we can direct them to places where they can get those taken care of too," Metheny said. "We try to work with them as fast as we can after the incident occurs."

From June through December, the American Red Cross has responded to 119 home fires, 38 of them in Cape Girardeau, Bollinger and Scott counties. The fires have affected 360 people. The cost to help the families is more than $95,000.

"It's devastating to any family that loses their home in a fire. Providing that emotional support, providing some hope, is a large part of what our volunteers do every day," Klueppel said.

Residents wanting to donate to the local Red Cross can log on to www.semoredcross.org.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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