Red Cross seeks funds to help fire victims

CHARLESTON – The American Red Cross is asking individuals and companies to help it provide assistance to victims of house fires in West Virginia.

The organization will kick off a Heroes for Fire Victims fundraising campaign on Wednesday. The campaign will run through March 30.

Red Cross staff and volunteers have helped about 750 families in the state affected by house fires this year. Volunteers have responded to 70 fires in December alone, Red Cross West Virginia Region spokeswoman Krista Farley Raines said.

West Virginia fire victims have received about $500,000 in direct financial assistance from local Red Cross groups this year. The organization also has helped 60 families affected by flooding or storm damage. Assistance is still being provided to families recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

Raines said the Red Cross receives no federal funding and relies on donations. Most of its relief workers aren’t paid.

“These are volunteers,” Raines said. “These aren’t paid staff who go out in the middle of the night to help these families.”

Betty Myers, a Red Cross volunteer who responded to a fire in Putnam County on Dec. 18, is typical, Raines said. Myers took off her gloves and gave them to the homeowner, who was standing outside in bare feet, to use as makeshift foot coverings until a pair of shoes could be found.

During the fundraising campaign, Red Cross staff will ask individuals or corporations to donate $1,250. The amount is the average assistance provided to families affected by house fires.

The organization’s assistance includes meals and shelter for families displaced by floods, fires or disasters. The Red Cross also provides financial and other assistance to help families get back on their feet.

Raines said the Red Cross also is always in need of blood donations, especially O negative, A negative and B negative.