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Red Cross Busy Helping Fire Victims

<p>And the displaced residents of the Vernon fire are just some of the victims needing the helping hand of the American Red Cross.</p> <p>While assisting families during times of disasters is what the non-profit organization does, Mechell Dixon found out the aid is draining the Red Cross' disaster services fund.</p>

Local Red Cross officials won't say how much is in their disaster services fund but they will say helping several dozen families during the first two weeks of the new year is taking a big toll on their finances.

"It's been an expensive season already," says Katrina Farmer, executive director of the local American Red Cross.

Expensive from coming to the aid of house fire victims this year.

"We have had 19 cases and that is us taking care of 54 different victims of fires just since January 1st," says Farmer.

Red Cross officials say since January 1st, they've helped victims of single family home fires, like this Princeton Avenue fire in Wichita Falls on January 2nd, that left the occupants homeless.

But Red Cross officials say a cooking fire Sunday night at the Augustan Apartments in Vernon has been especially costly on the organization's funding.

"We have expended a lot of our funds taking care of these people. The victims of a fire, they need a lot and the Vernon fire is now over $10,000 in expenses just direct expenses," adds Farmer.

The Red Cross operates solely on donations and money generated through fundraisers coming later this year.

So, to generate money now, it is using a fundraiser that's focused on a furry stuffed animal.

Since children are often time involved in disasters, the Red Cross' newest fundraiser involves something that provides kids with comfort and that comfort comes from this cute little stuffed animal named Piper the Puppy.

"They cost $100 and for that $100 you're helping to pay for the services that we give to that child. You're actually putting a coat on a child's back. You're putting shoes on a kids feet and you're making sure that they have a safe place to stay the night of the fire and they're getting what they need to be taken care of," Farmer explains.

The Piper the Puppy fundraiser started in this area several months ago and Red Cross officials say three Piper's were given to the youngest victims of the Augustan Apartment fire in Vernon.

If you'd like to participate in that fundraiser or a donation to the American Red Cross call the local chapter at (940) 322-8686.

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