More than 6,000 Texans spent last night in a shelter, and those are only the ones The American Red Cross counted.

12 local Red Cross volunteers left for Texas over the weekend. They will spend a minimum of two weeks there providing relief for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

West Michigan Red Cross Director Mike Mitchell said the need for volunteers will only grow more intense in the coming days, weeks and even months.

"The people who sign up today are not going to be going down tomorrow to help," said Mitchell.

All volunteers across the nation go through the same training, and those who have been deployed previously completed those steps.

But it's not too late.

In fact, next week Mitchell said they are hosting a Zero to Hero crash course volunteer training.

"We do that when we have major disasters like we can build up support for the future waves of volunteer support in Texas," Mitchell said.

In order to be deployed you do need to be 17 years or older, able to lift 50 pounds and be mobile. Red Cross pays for flights, shelter and food, so the volunteers will not be losing any money in doing this.

Felons are not permitted to volunteer in any capacity for the organization.

There are so many volunteer opportunities locally through The Red Cross, and monetary and bulk donations are needed, as well. Mitchell said to reach out to them at (616) 456-8661 to get started.

Donating blood is another immediate way to get involved with relief efforts.

Michigan Blood on Fuller Avenue is one of the easiest places to do this. Community Outreach Coordinator Amy Rotter said an appointment isn't required, just walk on in.

"Honestly, the more people and extra donors we get in the more we can help in Texas," Rotter said.

"Right now, we are trying to spare as much as we can, but we still have to support the needs of local Michigan hospitals. So, the more people we get in the more we can help."

For those who have never donated blood here are some details:

  • It takes 45-60 minutes, which includes a health screening
  • The actual draw only takes about 10 minutes
  • Donators will be briefly monitored following the draw (and receive free food)
  • Try to drink a lot of water prior to donating, and eat iron-rich foods like red meat, spinach, etc.

The rebuilding of Texas homes will not begin for a few months, but a local organization, World Renew is collecting donations now. Their group works to rebuild damaged homes, and they predict their work in the state will take at least two years to complete.

Other ways to get involved:

  1. Air BnB offers free places to stay
  2. Portlight Disability related relief
  3. Check local food banks, animal shelters for donation needs

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