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The American Red Cross is encouraging people throughout the United States to donate blood, and relief funds, as it works to provide safe shelter and comfort to hundreds of thousands of people being impacted by Hurricane Florence.

According to Jill Orton, CEO for the American Red Cross serving Kansas, Nebraska and Southwest Iowa Region, her division has already sent 56 individuals, including 13 from the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, to provide help to those affected.

“I am so proud of the staff, paid and volunteer, who have answered the call to assist our neighbors across the country,” she said.

As of Monday, more than 15,000 people sought refuge in more than 150 Red Cross and community shelters across the impacted region. This includes at least 14,200 people in 137 shelters in North Carolina, and 819 people in nine shelters in South Carolina.

About 3,000 Red Cross disaster workers from all over the country have been mobilized to help shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence. Working with partners, the Red Cross has served 150,700 meals and snacks, and distributed more than 2,000 relief items like diapers and comfort kits that contain deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygiene items for people forced from their homes. Volunteer mental health and health services professionals have provided some 5,500 contacts to provide support and care to evacuees.

The Red Cross is also mobilizing more than 130 emergency response vehicles and more than 70 trailers of equipment and supplies, including ready-to-eat meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 100,000 people.

While Red Cross has already been working to provide a variety of services and support to those affected, according to Vice President of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics Brad Kieserman, the need for continued support and relief are of utmost importance.

The storm is still creating dangerous flooding to the affected region and getting help into some areas will be difficult for some time.

“Over the coming days, we’re going to see a tremendous need for support. As rivers continue to rise and hundreds of roads remain closed, our biggest challenge will be in getting help to where it’s needed most,” Kieserman said. “We’re doing everything we can, including working with partners like the National Guard, to move volunteers and supplies to critical areas. As always, we’ll continue to focus on providing safe shelter and warm meals, as well as comfort and support, because sometimes people just need to tell their story.”

The American Red Cross is encouraging individuals to donate blood as more than 170 blood drives have been forced to cancel through this week due to Hurricane Florence, resulting in more than 4,600 uncollected blood and platelet donations.

According to American Red Cross, there is a critical need for platelet and type O blood.

Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Several upcoming local blood drives include:

Sept. 19 – Midland University Hopkins Arena, 900 N. Clarkson St., from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 24 – Fremont City Auditorium, 925 N. Broad St., from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sept. 25 – Fremont City Auditorium, 925 N. Broad St., from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 26 – Fremont High School, 1750 N. Lincoln Ave., from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The American Red Cross response to Hurricane Florence and other disasters relies upon financial donations. To help people affected by Hurricane Florence by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS.

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