Waiting to help, rooms at the ready

When disaster happens, the American Red Cross is right there to help people and provide humanitarian services for those affected. With the recent partnership between the Red Cross and local hotels, the shelter aspect of the organization’s service will be more available for disaster victims.

The Red Cross and its volunteers provide vital lifesaving services to those in need, whether it be from single to multi-family fires, minor to large scale flooding, tornadoes or man-made disasters. As part of their humanitarian aid, the Red Cross offers immediate housing in the event a person or family is unable to stay in their home due to fire or other emergency.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross held a kickoff event for their 2014 Rooms for Red Cross program at the Four Points by Sheraton in Minot. The Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross has formed a partnership with Four Points by Sheraton and other local hotels that are interested to provide rooms for individuals who have experienced a disaster. Members of the Minot Innkeepers Association were invited to the kickoff event to encourage them to donate hotel rooms, said Allan McGeough, executive director of the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross. He’s hoping each hotel will donate a few rooms, he added. “No room amount is too small.”

Rooms for Red Cross was the brainchild of two hotel managers in Fargo 10 years ago, McGeough said, and they approached the Red Cross with the idea. This will be the first year that the program will be in Minot, he added. Over 55 hotels in North Dakota participated in Rooms for Red Cross last year. McGeough said Four Points by Sheraton has donated 30 nights of free stays in 2014 for individuals who experience disaster. Hotel rooms are given for small to mid-sized disasters, he continued, but if more than 20 families are involved, then the Red Cross would open up a shelter.

“People donate money to the Red Cross and hotel rooms are a big expense and putting a family up in a hotel for three nights adds up,” McGeough said. Rooms for Red Cross offsets the cost of rooms to the Red Cross, he added.

Before 2014 started, there was a condo fire and Four Points by Sheraton donated rooms to those families before the Rooms for Red Cross program started, McGeough noted. He encouraged other local hotels to participate in the program, but added that he wouldn’t bother hotels that have little vacancy.

“When disaster happens, the Red Cross is there and one of our services provided is shelter,” McGeough said. The idea of Rooms for Red Cross is to get families or individuals back on their feet and this program helps when they have no place to stay, he continued.

“I’ve been doing this (working for the Red Cross) for 14 years and people are always really appreciative,” McGeough said about having a place to stay in a time of disaster. “If you can help in any small way, people are very appreciative.”

Hotel managers who are interested in participating in Rooms for Red Cross or people who have questions about the program can contact McGeough at 852-2828 or David Wick, general manager of Four Points by Sheraton, at 838-5200.