Red Cross helps those suffered from Katrina

About 30 Montanans were among the American Red Cross volunteers headed to the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

"These are people who have set their lives on hold to volunteer to help," said Wil Huett, chief executive officer of the Montana chapter of the American Red Cross. "That's a terrific response. That's a testament to the way Montanans feel about helping their neighbors across the country."

Katrina was a Category 4 storm when it hit Louisiana early Monday morning. By late in the day, it had downsized to a Category 1 but was still leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

During the hurricane season last year, about 70 volunteers from Montana traveled with the Red Cross, Billings Gazette reports. Volunteers perform a variety of tasks including delivering meals, maintaining shelters and helping victims get back on their feet. One Montanan started driving south on Sunday in an emergency response vehicle, Huett said.

Meanwhile, United Blood Services is calling for blood donors to help create a local blood reserve that can be quickly shipped to its sister blood centers in Louisiana and Mississippi if it is needed.

Bob Murray, director of donor recruitment, said that blood donations in the Gulf Coast region dwindled last week as residents prepared for the hurricane, and cleanup efforts in the coming weeks will probably disrupt donations.

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