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Red Cross sets up distribution sites for flood victims

By GARY LIBERATORE

Once people heard about the Red Cross Bulk Distribution Site in Whitesboro Friday morning, they started lining up to get help.

One of those area residents was Barb Farley who lives in Whitesboro, just a few blocks from the Village Hall parking lot where the Red Cross was set up.

"We got a shovel, lots of cleaning supplies, bleach, masks and gloves," Farley said.

American Red Cross Central New York Region Chief Operating Officer Rosie Taravella says that although it's now been a week since the major flooding hit the Mohawk Valley, many areas have gotten hit again with more heavy rain, and there are still many, many people dealing with the cleanup that remains.

"What we like to do after a few days, and people have settled in and it's time to get back in their homes and do cleanup, is set up our bulk distribution, which includes not just drinking water and basic needs, but also bleach, mops, gloves and trash bags," Taravella said.

Taravella says that with monetary donations, the Red Cross buys the items that are much needed, and buys them in bulk. That's why the sites are called bulk distribution sites.

"It's sort of like public service in a parking lot, but it does the trick," Taravella said. "Because these are the things that people have not thought of. So when they come here, they get information they didn't even know they needed."

Some area residents actually showed up at the Whitesboro site to donate, rather than receive items. Taravella says she isn't surprised.

"You know this community is so generous, not only have people participated in telethons, and just calling our offices and saying 'What can we do?', but many people also want to give items," she said.

Taravella said that monetary donations to the Red Cross are the best way you can help your neighbors here in the Mohawk Valley.

"We like it when people have the giving spirit, but it's a little bit easier for us, since we do 'bulk' purchases if people were to give cash," she said. "So they can always go to www.redcross.org or 1-800-RED-CROSS. Tell us how you are supporting us and we can direct that money."

Besides the distribution of supplies, the Red Cross teamed up with the Oneida County Health Department, which set up a small booth area in the parking lot to answer people's health questions, but to also provide a vaccination.

"Today the offer is for a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine," said Oneida County Health Department Public Education Coordinator Jesse Orton. "The reason is, as part of that vaccine, people can be protected by receiving the vaccine from tetanus which is a bacterial infection. The bacteria enters the body through a wound, like a cut, and that bacteria is found within the environment, and at times in a flooding situation, that bacteria may be present in the flood waters."

Finally, Taravella says volunteers from the Red Cross were on-hand just to lend an ear to those effected by the flooding.

"Fortunately, our volunteers are talented in a number of different areas, so we have people that do mental health counseling," she said.

Sharon Smith is a volunteer case worker with the Red Cross who came up from a suburb of Houston, Texas to help out.

"It's a very stressful time for people, and some don't cope with it very well, and that's where our mental health workers come in," Smith said. "They are here to help with you, sit down and talk with you."

Smith and Taravella say the big thing they want to tell people is, "Don't be afraid to ask for help."

Taravella says the Red Cross can set up three bulk distribution sites each day, until they are deemed no longer needed.

"We will continue to work with our community partners to find `out where else we need to go," she said.

On Saturday, Red Cross bulk distribution sites will be set up at Remington Arms and at Mohawk High School.

In Oneida County, there will be one location set up at the Kirkland Municipal Building on State Route12-B.

All three locations will be fully staffed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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