West-side Fire Puts Red Cross Budget in Early Strain

POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009 - 6:17am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:24pm

EL PASO--- The massive fire at a west-side apartment complex Tuesday has put a strain on Red Cross' finances.

The helpers say recent fires have kept them busy this month.

"Just within the last week, we've had an apartment fire in Van Horn that we responded to, where we assisted 7 people," said Mark Matthys, the local Red Cross spokesman.

The fire at Mountain Village Apartments Tuesday forced 10 families out of their apartments.

The Red Cross offers help to those who lost their belongings in the fire.

They tell NewsChannel 9 they're currently helping the three families who asked for assistance.

Everything they provide costs money.

"That pays for replacing their food, clothing, in some cases bedding, shoes, as well as emergency prescription medication," said Matthys.

The families who qualify for the help get a debit card.
They fill it up with up to $1,800 per family to spend on those necessities.
It doesn't include emergency housing, like hotels or rent.

"Here in the first month, we're at least double our budget for the month of July," said Matthys.

That's $10,000 more than they normally spend during July: with 11 months left to go in their fiscal year and so many more unpredictable emergencies to come.

"We have to stay on top of that demand, otherwise it starts to cut into our ability to respond," he said.

It already has, he said.
The Red Cross used to give out $500 for families to find an apartment to rent.
But now, they only give $300.
So Matthys told NewsChannel 9, they've already sent out an e-mail to their major donors asking for help.

"This is always kind of a slow time for donations because of family vacations and the economy being what it is. So, our funds are low," he said.

In order to stay stable this year, Matthys estimates they'll need up to $125,000 in donations.

Donations can be sent to the El Paso Red Cross, online at www.redcrosselpaso.org, or by mail to:

El Paso Red Cross
3620 Admiral St.
El Paso, TX 79925

To reach the local chapter, call 915-592-0208.

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