South Shore responds to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort |

South Shore responds to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort

Jeff Munson

The South Lake Tahoe Red Cross Disaster Team is sending at least one of its members to aide evacuees in the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast states.

John Garofalos of Meyers will board a plane this morning bound for Falls Church, Va., where he will join hundreds of volunteers in a call center established specifically for hurricane and flood victims.

It is the fifth disaster Garofalos has responded to through the Red Cross, the first one being the 9/11 terrorist attacks where he served in an outreach program in New York City.

The 46-year-old retired South Shore resident is scheduled to work for three weeks, but believes the severity of the hurricane’s aftermath on lives and property may keep him there longer.

“I image what will happen is the Red Cross will go through its volunteer banks and see if some of the volunteers can return again,” he said. “It is an amazing, overwhelming and devastating situation that will take time. The Red Cross is throwing everything into this. We will do the best we can.”

Representatives of the Salvation Army and Red Cross said local funds have been set up for hurricane victims, and they’re getting a heavy response.

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“The phones have been ringing off the hook since Monday,” said Caroline Punches, executive director of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross. “People are very concerned and they want to help.”

“Many of them are frustrated because they feel helpless,” Punches said. “They see that television footage and it’s so overwhelming that they say, ‘What can I do?’ Some people want us to send them there, but we can’t just send anyone.”

South Lake Tahoe Red Cross volunteer Madaline Brewster said the agency is expediting its volunteer training program in response to the disaster and is encouraging volunteers to sign up.

“I know they need people to help with food preparation and working in the shelters and signing in people,” she said. For more information, call her at (530) 542-4057.

Carole Miller of the Salvation Army in Reno likened the public response to the outpouring of help following the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Both she and Punches said people are being encouraged to send checks or make cash donations rather than offer supplies.

“I know people get tired of hearing that the best way you can help is with money, but it’s true,” said Miller.

South Lake Tahoe resident John Cocores, 38, encouraged fellow residents to give to the relief effort, even if it is just a few dollars.

“If people donate a dollar or five dollars, it might seem like nothing but to them it can make a world of difference to a person left homeless,” he said.

Gov. Kenny Guinn encouraged Nevadans to make donations and offer other assistance, saying, “These are truly difficult times for the residents of the gulf coast. As a nation, we must pull together in times like these and come to the aid of our fellow citizens.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

To donate

Call the Northern Nevada Chapter at (775) 856-1000, or send a check to 1190 Corporate Blvd., Reno, NV 89502. You can make a secure donation online at

— Contributions can also be made to the Sacramento Sierra Chapter of the American Red Cross at 8928 Volunteer Lane, Sacramento, CA, 95826-3221.

— Donations can also be made to the Reno Salvation Army, 1931 Sutro Street, Reno, NV, 89512. Make checks payable to Salvation Army Disaster Relief