Although Medical Teams International, true to its name, is probably best known for sending doctors and medical supplies to crisis-stricken countries around the globe, the Tigard-based relief organization is preparing a response to Hurricane Harvey — which some experts now believe will end up being the costliest storm in U.S. history.
The group has put out a call for cash donations as its volunteers and staff assemble supply kits for shipment to the affected parts of the Gulf Coast. The supplies, as described by Medical Teams global ambassador Joe DeCarlo, are nothing fancy, just "things that are very basic but that (storm victims) no longer have or have access to easily, and that would make a difference in their lives."
The kits being put together in the Medical Teams warehouse at 14150 S.W. Milton Court include items like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and washcloths.
"We are wanting to support the distribution of products that will make a difference in the lives of the individual families. These are people, we know, we've seen on TV, they've lost everything," DeCarlo said.
Of the supply kits, he remarked, "This is in no means intended to meet the needs of all of the individuals, but it is a contribution that Medical Teams is making."
DeCarlo has a personal connection to the disaster that has unfolded in coastal Texas and Louisiana over the past week: His cousin lives in Houston, he said, as does his 88-year-old aunt, who is in a care facility.
"Water did not go into my cousin's home, but it did reach my aunt's care facility," DeCarlo said, referring to the record flooding seen in Houston and other affected areas as a result of the storm. Both his cousin and aunt are safe now, but he said, "It was frightening in those initial 24 hours."
Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane last Friday, Aug. 25, near Rockport, Texas. Although the powerful cyclone lost intensity and was downgraded to a tropical storm over that weekend, it lingered over the Texas Gulf Coast for days, dumping record rainfall on communities like Rockport, Corpus Christi and Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States.
Now that the worst of the storm is over, the extent of the cost — both in property and in human lives — is beginning to be assessed.
"As the waters start to recede, the tragedy's going to start to unfold even more," DeCarlo said, adding, "This is an area where we really need to stand up and support wherever we can."
Medical Teams will work with "local partners" to ensure the aid is distributed to those who need it, DeCarlo said. However, the group has not yet finalized where the aid will be sent or with whom it will join forces on the ground, with DeCarlo explaining it will seek to provide assistance where it believes it is most needed.
"We're looking at the greater area that's been affected … and want to contribute where their needs are great," he said.
DeCarlo urges people to contribute by sending cash donations. Medical Teams has supplies for the aid kits in stock and can purchase more in bulk if needed, he said.
Donations can be made on the Medical Teams International website or by calling 800-959-4325.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
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