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What can you do to help?

Volunteers: Money is the best resource to donate

Posted: November 6, 2012 - 12:58pm  |  Updated: November 7, 2012 - 1:05am

Donations have already begun flowing in in the wake of the Monday evening Gastineau Apartments fire, which displaced about 50 residents of the downtown Juneau apartment complex.

The fire spurred a response from the American Red Cross of Alaska, which set up an emergency shelter in Centennial Hall on Egan Drive late Monday evening.

Disaster Assistance Team volunteers were on standby at the shelter throughout the evening and referred the displaced residents to local hotels, which offered those residents a one night stay, free-of-charge.

Disaster Services Specialist for Southeast, Roger Rettig, said in a phone interview that two dozen people registered so far as displaced residents, and about 18 people took advantage of the free room at the Goldbelt Hotel.

Three displaced residents also took shelter at the Bergmann Hotel, said the hotel’s night manager Art Martin. The Bergmann is a sister building to the Gastineau Apartments, since they are owned by the same person, James Barrett.

The emergency shelter is providing displaced residents with a variety of services, such as health care and long-term living placement options.

A health practitioner from a local clinic was on hand Monday evening to help residents who lost their medicine in the fire, and Walmart stayed open past hours to accommodate residents who needed to buy medicine, said one of the volunteers, Bob Herman.

One side of the Centennial Hall Egan Room has been transformed into a pet facility where displaced residents can keep their pet cats and dogs in kennels. Those were donated by the Gastineau Humane Society.

Food and snacks for the residents, donated by the Salvation Army, and bottled water, donated by Costco, takes up the other side of the Egan Room.

A message board has been set up in the main room, where people can write on the eraser marker board that they are OK, should family or friends be concerned. (The Red Cross cannot give out personal information about the displaced’s whereabouts, so they use the message board to keep people in touch.)

Herman said the Centennial Hall shelter was set up the moment the fire department called them. He said it is one of the pre-arranged scenarios that the city has in place for disasters, and that this was one of those scenarios. The phone call from the fire department is what set the impromptu shelter in motion.

Shelter volunteers expect more residents to stop by the shelter today and this evening, especially as the hotel’s one-night offer will likely expire at 11 a.m. today, he said.

The shelter will remain open tonight for displaced residents as a place to sleep, and it could be open longer, depending on need, Rettig said.

City officials will determine how long the shelter is operational. The city manager’s office confirmed the shelter will at least be open for tonight.

Volunteer Linda Greise says the best thing to donate is money. Monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to 3225 Hospital Drive, Juneau AK 99801. (Donations must contain the note: Gastineau Apartment Fire.)

A donation fund through local banks has not yet been set up, Rettig said in a 10:30 a.m. phone interview.

“Money is the best resource for Red Cross because we can provide everything from letting them purchase (things for their) recuperation, letting them purchase their own clothing, we can let them buy their own food, etc.” Greise said.

The Red Cross is careful about accepting homemade prepared foods, Rettig said, because there is no way to ensure the food is up to code.

But canned food and other “hard foods” are welcome and can be donated to those in need via the Salvation Army, which partners with the Red Cross. The shelter has already received offers from caterers and commercial eateries, such as Subway, to help feed people staying at the shelter, Rettig said.

Blankets, sleeping bags and clothing from the public are also welcome, Rettig said, although he noted the shelter received a “van-ful” of clothing, boots, stuffed animals and blankets late Monday evening. They also have two cots and about four sleeping bags, he said.

Volunteers said the shelter is still evaluating what is needed at this point.

Any item that is donated and not used in this effort will be donated to local social services agencies, such as the Salvation Army or Glory Hole, Rettig said.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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