Local Red Cross deploys 80 volunteers after Patten Towers fire - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local Red Cross deploys 80 volunteers after Patten Towers fire

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It could be weeks, maybe months, before residents of Patten Towers can return home.

A fire Tuesday night forced hundreds of people into emergency shelters.

Since then, the local Red Cross has supported the 241 residents, and 117 residents are still staying in the emergency shelter at the Brainerd Recreation Center.

The Red Cross has deployed 80 volunteers, and another 80 from other local organizations are also helping.

But with volunteers still out in Oklahoma, the Red Cross is running tight, but making it work.

The victims said these volunteers are keeping them off the street.

The Red Cross said they hope this incident will remind the community of the need to volunteer.

Sam McElroy is calling his bed at the shelter home, since a fire ripped through his old home at Patten Towers.

"It could be so much worse. I mean, you know, on the street. It could almost be like a homeless person," McElroy said.

But he's staying off the streets thanks to organizations like the Red Cross and volunteers like Adrienne King and her daughter Aalliya Ratliff.

They know all too well what it's like to be a victim. "Back in '07, we had a house fire, and the Red Cross was very instrumental in helping us get back on our feet. And last year, my parents had a house fire. So I decided they helped us, why not pass it on and help someone else," King said.

Officials with our local Red Cross said the Patten Tower fire has their the volunteers stretched thin.

"If you think of a single family fire, you have people who are displaced, they need food, they need clothing, they need emotional support, they need some type of shelter. This is about 250 times the size of that," said American Red Cross East Tennessee Community Chapter Executive Greg Waite.

Waite said the needs of the Patten Towers residents requires more volunteers with a medical background. He also said he hopes this incident will be a call to action for the Chattanooga community to get involved before the next disaster strikes.

The Red Cross requires a background check and about 10 hours of training before you can volunteer, so it's important to get involved before the disaster happens.

For the Patten Towers victims, the volunteers are their only hope for normalcy. "We got a lot of people now that's pulling for us, helping us and stuff like that, and we are very grateful for that. And I'm just thankful," said victim Janice Brooks.

For the volunteers, it's a chance to give back. "It could be you on the other end, and you want somebody to help you, and you know it's important to help others," said Ratliff.

"What they're doing for us, it's beyond the call," said McElroy.

The Salvation Army and Southern Baptist also has volunteers at the shelter helping victims.

If you'd like to become a volunteer with the American Red Cross, you can visit their web site by clicking here, or by calling 423-265-3455.

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