Couple urges locals to give

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Vic and Flo Hencken have seen the effort it takes to respond to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

The Steamboat Springs couple, which recently returned from service in Louisiana, worries that the local Red Cross Chapter doesn't have the financial resources to cover disasters here.

To donate to the local chapter of the American Red Cross, call (970) 226-5728 or visit www.coloradoredcr...

Vic Hencken is vice chairman of the board for the Red Cross' Centennial Chapter, which serves northern Colorado. Two sets of disasters this year -- Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the Asian tsunami -- have attracted the attention of donors nationwide, he said. That attention comes with good intentions, he said, but people don't realize that donations to local chapters also help volunteers respond to national events.

"All disaster workers come from chapters," he said.

But when there's a local disaster, such as a fire or a plane crash, he said, those same volunteers will be ready to act. People don't seem to understand that, he said.

"People don't see that we do anything that directly affects them," he said. "But we do affect the community directly."

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were a drain on Red Cross resources, Vic Hencken said. The agency used more than 200,000 volunteers to take on more than 1.4 million cases. The largest single-event caseload before was about 90,000, he said.

Hencken said it's hard to hear criticism of the Red Cross' response to the hurricanes.

"A lot of people don't realize that we are focused on initial emergency needs," he said. "People need food, safety, shelter. We are the lead agency to make that happen."

However, Hencken said, the Red Cross would respond to a disaster whether the organization has the money to fund the response.

"We will never not respond due to a lack of money," he said.

--o reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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