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Red Cross chapter eyes special needs

An impromptu Red Cross effort to assist elderly and handicappedresidents impacted by Hurricane Katrina produced long lines andconfusion at the chapter office on Court Street Monday and thismorning.

Red Cross worker Melissa Smith said she started seeing elderlyand handicapped residents Monday. Word of the activity got out, andpeople started “invading,” she said.

This morning, a line stretched around the office buildingcomplex. At one point Monday, Smith said 20 people were inside thechapter office.

“It’s gone from being an act of compassion and kindness on mypart to what you’re seeing,” Smith told Brookhaven Police Det.Roger Wilson and Officer Rob Smith after they were called to thescene this morning.

The Red Cross worker and officers devised a ticket system forseeing those in line. Wilson and Officer Smith advised thoseseeking assistance to be patient as they worked through theprocess.

The Red Cross’ Smith expressed her desire to continue to helppeople at the office.

“I’m really concerned about the elderly and handicapped,” shesaid

Red Cross Relief Coordinator Tim Connolly said he was notdirectly involved with local chapter activities. However, he saidthere had been a discussion about ways to help those such as theelderly and handicapped who had been left out of the system duringearlier relief efforts.

“The chapter office was going to craft a solution to reach outto them, and apparently they have,” Connolly said.

For those who received tickets during a distribution last week,appointments have been scheduled through early October at theLincoln County Multi-Use Facility. A second service center inMcComb was scheduled to open today.

“The Red Cross is committed to ensuring everybody who needsassistance has a means to it,” Connolly said.

Connolly said that is why he remains concerned about residentshaving problems with the organization’s 1-800-975-7585 assistancenumber. He said he is working with the Montgomery, Ala., districtoffice to address those concerns.

Regarding the chapter office activities on Court Street,Connolly said he did not want to give the impression that a thirdservice center had opened.

“That is not the case,” Connolly said.