Thank you for taking the time to provide detailed reporting regarding the long-term community support lining up to assist those affected by the January 8 fire at the Chanticleer Apartments. You are correct, Mrs. Glenda Buckhalter-Richardson, as always, is doing a fantastic job of assisting Columbus and Lowndes County fire clients find a long-term housing solution and introducing them to all the local alternatives available to assist with clothing, household goods, food, utilities, etc. But that is not the entire story.
The Columbus Fire Department, the Lowndes County Fire Coordinator and Volunteer Fire Department Chiefs and the Columbus/Lowndes County Emergency Management Officials do a fantastic job of urging those affected by fire to contact the American Red Cross for immediate assistance. If they realize clients will have difficulty calling for themselves or will need help right at that moment, the officials will call the American Red Cross on their behalf from the scene.
In this instance, Columbus Fire Department Information Officer Michael Walker called the American Red Cross from the scene to alert us to the unfolding situation and immediate needs. We worked with him, Lowndes Emergency Management Director, Cindy Lawrence, and the Homeless Coalition to get those evacuating from their apartments out of the cold rain and into a warm, dry place at the nearby warming center. Three American Red Cross volunteers from Columbus met them with blankets, snacks and water, and a small toiletry kit and immediately began opening cases to provide immediate monetary assistance to assist them with navigating through the next several days of their lives. The Homeless Coalition volunteers manning the warming center offered hot drinks and food and graciously assisted the Red Cross with transporting materials into the building. The building belongs to Columbus Parks and Recreation and employees stopped by to check on all and to provide some tables for the Red Cross volunteers and clients to use upon request from the Emergency Management Director.
The information collected and provided by Columbus Fire Officer Michael Walker greatly assisted the Red Cross with verifying everything necessary to quickly open a case and provide assistance. He also provided the apartment management contact information. Red Cross contacted the apartment management and local United Way director, Renee Sanders, after the Homeless Coalition coordinator, Susan Garton, and the WCBI reporter, Tkeeyah Cummings both contacted me indicating there was an outpouring of local community support for those affected by the fire. The Red Cross facilitated contact amongst those who knew of donations and contributors and those who knew the families in need of support. The result is a very loving, caring and supportive community very quickly leveraged existing locally organized and coordinated relief communities to properly focus upon the immediate and eventual long-term needs of those affected by disaster. Well done!
V. Gail Thompson, Disaster Program Manager, North Mississippi