Red Cross getting ready to help Harvey evacuees at Austin Convention Center
The Red Cross has been swamped by people wanting to lend their skills to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Wednesday afternoon, the Austin Convention Center was still a blank canvas. But by Thursday morning it's supposed to be ready and fully-staffed to welcome up to 2,400 evacuees.
"It's basically a larger coordinated effort. When you've got more folks under one roof, you gotta make sure we have all the Red Cross volunteers to support all their needs," said Red Cross Spokeswoman Bristel Minsker.
Elaine and Ana are eager to lend a hand. The two got the idea to volunteer their foreign language skills after helping some recent arrivals.
"They were hungry. They were tired and they were fearful that they were going to be deported because they had left all of their documentation at home in Corpus Christi," Ana said.
Like many families forced out by Hurricane Harvey, the family didn't just leave their homes they left their support system who spoke their language.
"And I know there are people who fleeing this disaster who may not be able to speak English to communicate their needs," Elaine said.
But these two were sent elsewhere because the Red Cross was backlogged Wednesday afternoon in processing volunteer applications.
"In Austin alone, since Harvey made landfall, 5,000 or more volunteers have signed up. So we're basically trying to get those 5,000 background-checked, trained and into the shelters as quickly as we can to get the help where it's needed," Minsker said.
The Red Cross says the current public shelter at Austin ISD’s Delco Center will remain open as long as it’s needed.