Update: Adding Red Cross referral to St. Vincent de Paul)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ ) -- With many Central Oregonians looking for ways to help by donating items to wildfire evacuees arriving in Deschutes County, the American Red Cross said it also must address health risks due to COVID-19.
Nearly 80 people were placed in rooms at the Super 8 motel in Redmond Tuesday night, after receiving assistance from the Red Cross fire evacuation site at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds.
More evacuees continued to arrive Wednesday, many with little to no belongings, prompting others to start taking in donations on their behalf.
Northeast Bend residents Anita Tracy and Pete Peters created a post on Nextdoor, a social networking website for neighborhoods, asking neighbors and others interested to deliver supplies to her front yard.
"They need everything," Tracy said. "Those folks have left their homes, only with what they are wearing. There's no home or even town to go back to."
Tracy and Peters filled two vans with donations of clothes, toiletries, food items, luggage, bedding and much more, and delivered them Wednesday afternoon.
Tracy told NewsChannel 21 that everyone who brought donations kept a safe distance and wore masks, but she acknowledged she doesn't know if the donations are coming from households were exposed to COVID-19 issues.
Instead, the Red Cross in Redmond has been directing item donations to St. Vincent de Paul in Redmond, where a distribution center, including a food bank, has been set up for fire victims and evacuees. Tracy was told the Super 8 needed snack food and water for the evacuees.
Nadine McCrindle, executive director of the American Cross for Central and Eastern Oregon, said in any other year, the Red Cross would accept household donations for evacuees, but COVID- 19 has posed a new challenge.
"With coronavirus, we are unable to accept those material donations," McCrindle said. "Just due to the risk of the virus spreading throughout those items, it's a risk too high that we are able to bear right now."
McCrindle said also they don't have enough space to store items that people are bringing in.
As a result of being unable to place people in congregate shelters, as they traditionally do for evacuees, the Red Cross is seeking financial donations to help place people in hotels, as well as assisting with their individual needs.
McCrindle said for those wanting to donate items, they ask that you stop by the shelter at the fairgrounds first and speak with someone, since the needs of the evacuees continue to change. They ask that people not bring donations without first communicating with staff.
On Wednesday morning, for example, the Red Cross was working on ways to provide people with phone chargers.
Financial donations for the Red Cross can be made at https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation.html/, or you can text the word "red cross" to 90999, which will process a $10 donation on your behalf.