Food bank, Red Cross anticipate long-term response



Tom Kepner, left, stocks gas containers as shoppers buy hurricane items at The Home Depot in Lady Lake on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 5, 2017. Buyers are preparing for Hurricane Irma. The store was out of generators and water early Tuesday. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

By Paul Swiech | The Pantagraph

Midwest Food Bank and American Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region have relief supplies and volunteers on the way to Florida to assist survivors of Hurricane Irma even as both organizations continue to help survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

“This will be a long-term relief effort,” said Phil Hodel, communications director for Normal-based Midwest Food Bank. “Especially with Irma, we will be assembling, packing and shipping disaster relief boxes for months to come.”

The Red Cross Central and Southern Illinois Region has deployed 90 volunteers and staff to Texas and Louisiana since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast on Aug. 25, Red Cross regional communications director Trish Burnett said Monday. Some of them already have completed their deployment but more are being dispatched.


Of the 90, 25 were from Central Illinois, Burnett said. Seventeen of the 25 remain deployed.

Meanwhile, 12 volunteers and staff have been deployed by the Red Cross region to Florida to assist with Hurricane Irma relief, Burnett said. Two of the 12 are from Central Illinois.

“We will deploy many more to Irma in the coming days,” she said.

The director of operations for Midwest Food Bank’s Fort Myers, Florida, distribution facility evacuated his family from Fort Myers late last week after the facility closed temporarily as Hurricane Irma approached.

He drove to Peachtree City, Georgia, where Midwest Food Bank has another distribution facility. That distribution facility was closed Monday and will remain closed Tuesday as Irma, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, approaches Peachtree City.

The Fort Myers operations manager picked up a semitrailer load of disaster relief boxes in Peachtree City on Monday and will return Tuesday to Fort Myers to distribute the food and cleaning supplies to food pantries and other local agencies serving people displaced by Irma, Hodel said.

Meanwhile, The Salvation Army has requested from Midwest Food Bank, 2031 Warehouse Road, Normal, another five semitrailer loads of disaster relief boxes for Beaumont, Texas, Hodel said. All five loads are expected to shipped out by the end of the week, he said.


That will bring to 19 the number of semi loads that the food bank has shipped for Harvey and Irma relief, Hodel said.

“Over a year following Hurricane Katrina (in 2015), we sent over 150 semi loads to Louisiana,” Hodel said. “Between the two disasters, Harvey and Irma, I would expect as many loads to go out.”

Volunteers who wish to assemble and pack disaster relief boxes may do so noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the food bank but must register first at

“People are just so eager to help,” Hodel said. “It’s great to give them opportunities.”

People who wish to become trained Red Cross disaster relief volunteers have an opportunity from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Red Cross office, 1 Westport Court, Bloomington. Training is free but volunteers must register at 309-662-0500, ext. 7428, or email [email protected].

Midwest Food Bank received a $50,000 check from Growmark Foundation on Monday to assist with Harvey and Irma response, Hodel said. Red Cross received a check for $4,144.38 as a result of the canister drive at the 15 area McDonald’s restaurants on Sept. 1 and 2, said Coleen Moore, Red Cross regional philanthropy officer.


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