CAPITAL REGION -- With the natural and humanitarian disaster 1,800 miles away still evolving by the hour, Capital Region residents have already contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and more fundraising efforts are only getting started.
A WAMC public radio on-air fundraiser on Wednesday raised $315,000 for the American Red Cross, which has launched a massive response to aid people in the flooded communities in and around Houston and other parts of southeast Texas and Louisiana. Thousands of homes were inundated, and the death toll -- 47 as of late Friday -- continues to rise.
In response, Price Chopper/Market 32 on Friday activated its "Your Help Counts" campaign with the Red Cross, which allows supermarket customers to contribute to the Red Cross at any open register.
"Nobody should be at a loss for what they can do if they want to help," said Mona Golub, a spokeswoman for Schenectady-based Price Chopper, which has 134 stores in six states.
Kimmy Venter, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Eastern New York based in Albany, said people are being very generous, but it's too soon to estimate the total amount of money that's been raised. The organization's fundraising website on Friday included a warning about slow responses due to its high volume of use.
A week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi, Texas, the American Red Cross was sheltering 42,000 people Thursday night, and that number has been growing each night, Venter said.
A national Red Cross executive told National Public Radio that $50 million had been spent through Wednesday to shelter, clothe and feed Harvey victims, with no end in sight.
"It’s too early in our response to Hurricane Harvey to know just how large this relief effort will be," Venter said. "A huge part of Texas, including the entire Houston metro area, is affected. [The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] has stated that this is unlike anything they have seen before. Right now, the Red Cross is working day and night to get help to where it is needed most."
While response to the disaster is just starting, she said there are 2,000 Red Cross workers on the ground in flooded areas. In response to hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012, Venter noted that tens of thousands of volunteers helped, and millions of people assisted.
The Red Cross is also having more people wanting to volunteer. Three disaster volunteer "boot camps" were held this week and drew 170 people, so four more were scheduled, including one Tuesday at the Red Cross office in Albany and Wednesday, Sept. 13 at the music hall on the top floor of Saratoga Springs City Hall. Training runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and is for people who can make a commitment to work 14 days in the disaster zone.
"People are making a commitment just by coming to the boot camp alone, so we're really blown away by the response," Venter said.
Price Chopper's "Your Help Counts" campaign arises from a 30-year partnership the supermarket chain has had with the Red Cross, a partnership activated in times of emergency or disaster. Golub said past campaigns have raised anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000.
The Hurricane Harvey campaign will run at least through the end of September. Price Chopper will be matching the first $5,000 raised. Golub said 100 percent of the donations goes directly to the Red Cross.
Churches and community organizations are starting fundraisers or collecting materials for flood victims. Victory Christian Church held a fundraising concert Thursday night after which a truck left for Texas.
In Clifton Park, the Shenendehowa PTA Council, with the support of the Shenendehowa Central School District, is collecting donations for the Houston Independent School District through Wednesday, with items being collected including clothing, underwear, shoes, school supplies and basic hygiene items. Donations may be brought to the schools.
A Hurricane Harvey Relief show at the Low Beat on Central Avenue in Albany will take place on Friday, Sept. 8, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and local bands on the bill. The $10 admission donation will go to the Galveston County Food Bank.
New York state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, meanwhile, encouraged people to give to relief organizations, but warned them to watch out for scams.
Legitimate charities are registered with the Attorney General's Office, he said, and the registered list can be reviewed at www.charitiesnys.com.
Schneiderman also suggested being cautious about phone solicitations, not responding to unsolicited emails, and not donating to campaigns on websites like GoFundMe or CrowdRise unless you know the person.
The remnants of Harvey, meanwhile, are due to pass through upstate New York Saturday night and into Sunday, with the National Weather Service predicting around an inch of rain.