By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Local people looking to help out survivors of a catastrophic earthquake and resulting tsunamis in Asia can make cash donations. Local fund-raising efforts are also being planned.
"Donations are extremely important at this time. The devastation is just phenomenal," said local Red Cross volunteer Vicke Schend.
Tsunamis struck 12 countries Sunday following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and its aftershocks, killing more than 76,700 people. The international Red Cross estimates the death toll could reach 100,000.
Calls for aid have gone out across the world to help people in the region, with fears that disease and starvation could kill as many as the disaster itself.
Schend said the state Red Cross has called for aid. Donations can be sent directly to the state office in Great Falls.
Wil Huett of Great Falls, American Red Cross of Montana chief executive officer, said money is what is needed.
"Cash donations are the most important thing we can do right now," he said.
Red Cross tries to purchase supplies for disaster relief as close to the disaster as possible, to help the local economy, Huett said. That, along with the difficulty of trying to ship donated items halfway across the world, makes cash donations a priority, he said.
He said Red Cross of Montana has already received several donations of $1,000 or more, including one $5,000 donation.
People have called Red Cross of Montana to see if they can go to help in Asia, but sending volunteers is unlikely, Huett said. The American Red Cross already has enough people in place with knowledge of local languages and specialized training, he said.
The Rev. Brad Ulgenes of First Lutheran Church in Havre said the national Lutheran Church has put out an appeal for aid, but no local fund-raisers have yet been planned.
He said Lutheran World Relief, which provides disaster relief, will be the focus of fund-raisers.
"Our church will be asking for help with that effort," Ulgenes said.
The Rev. VaunDalee DeLong of Van Orsdel United Methodist Church said the United Methodist Committee on Relief will be the church's main vehicle to get aid to the victims.
"Immediately there will be a bishop's appeal coming out for people to make monetary donations," she said, adding that the bishops will announce a number to call to make donations.
The efforts of the committee also are funded through donations made by members of local congregations throughout the year, she added.
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller said individual schools and classrooms generally set up their own disaster fund-raisers. Because the schools are closed for Christmas break, there has been no planning yet, he said.
Once the schools are back in session, the district will contact the people who would be involved in fund-raising and plan activities, he said.
Huett said something people need to remember is that the region will need help recovering for years.
"Disasters don't go away when the headlines go away," he said.
Donations for the Red Cross should be sent to: American Red Cross of Montana, P.O. Box 2406, Great Falls, MT 59403.