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Bloomington Red Cross volunteers assessing tornado damage; how to volunteer or donate

  • Category: News
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  • Written By: Dann Denny

Bloomington residents Sandy Erler and Bob Althauser have spent the past five days in storm-ravaged areas in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, doing damage assessment as trained volunteers with the Monroe County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Headquartered in Louisville, they have seen the swath of devastation carved into the landscape by a string of tornadoes. “We followed a path of destruction a mile wide from New Pekin to Henryville and Marysville,” Erler said. “All along the way, there are trees lying on the ground, covering all the back roads.” The scene in Henryville almost took her breath away. “It looks like someone dropped a bomb on it,” she said. “Or like it’s been flattened with bulldozers.”

RELATED: IU emergency management officials assist, learn in tornadoes’ wake

Erler said she and Althauser have been assessing and recording the extent of damage incurred by homes, talking to homeowners in the process. She said some residents seem to be in a stupor, citing an elderly woman she spoke with Tuesday who could not answer even the simplest of questions. “Some people’s mental health is not good,” she said. “But others, even though they lost everything, are thankful they are still alive and still optimistic.” Erler said it’s been heartwarming to see the high number of church groups that are coming to the rescue with food and support. “It’s wonderful to see this kind of community spirit,” she said. “People are wonderful, especially in the Midwest.”

How to help

If you want to help in the next few weeks with disaster relief efforts in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, you can contact

You can enter your name and email on the site, and the Metro United Way will provide you with details about volunteer registration and project assignments as soon as they become available. The website says items for donation — clothing is not needed — should be taken to the River Ridge Complex at 700 Patrol Road in Jeffersonville between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.; and that the United Way hopes to soon set up a volunteer reception center at 723 Spring St. in Jeffersonville to help tornado victims.

If you want to volunteer with the Monroe County Chapter of the American Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts, you must first take a volunteer disaster relief training course at 6 p.m. March 28 at the Red Cross office at 411 E. Seventh St. in Bloomington. You must call 812-332-7292 to register.

“The needs in that area will be ongoing for a long time,” said Maria Del Mar Carrasquillo, director of emergency services with the Monroe County Chapter of the American Red Cross. “But we want our volunteers to be safe when they are down there, so we want to train them before we send them.”

Carrasquillo said a half-dozen trained volunteers from the Monroe County Red Cross chapter have helped with the relief efforts so far in Scott County and Kentucky. One is at the Red Cross operational headquarters in Louisville helping compile overall damage information, and another has been to Henryville and is now surveying damage in various Kentucky towns.

If you want to make a financial contribution to the Red Cross relief efforts, you can send it to the Monroe County Chapter of the American Red Cross, 411 E. Seventh St., Bloomington, IN 47408; or the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243 Washington, DC 20013.

Monroe Hospital

Monroe Hospital is asking people to donate food, blankets, gloves, hammers and other hand tools in its emergency department any time of day between now and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Brian Taylor, one of the hospital’s EMTs and a native of Henryville, will load the items into a van Sunday and deliver them to the New Washington Fire Department, which serves the Nabb and Marysville areas. The hospital’s employees have donated some items already, along with financial contributions.

Monroe Hospital is part of the District 8 Response Task Force and Incident Management Team, and Taylor was one of several EMTs from the hospital who went to Salem on Friday to set up and run the field hospital there.

Copyright: 2012