Published: Aug 30, 2010 4:36 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 30, 2010 1:36 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. -  With the 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina fresh in the minds of Americans, the Lee County Red Cross would like to remind Southwest Floridians of the important roles they played following that unprecedented disaster.

As displaced residents from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana fled their homes, Red Cross shelters in 31 states - including Florida - opened to aid thousands of evacuees.

In Lee County, the Red Cross

· Assisted more than 350 families with shelter, food, clothing and rental assistance

· Provided more than 4,000 meals and snacks

· Provided health and mental health support to more than 160 people

While our area was still rebounding from the devastating effects of Hurricane Charley only a year prior, partnerships formed and strengthened during that time proved even stronger in aiding Katrina evacuees.

A "one-stop-shop" for Katrina clients was established at First United Methodist Church in Fort Myers, staying open for more than two weeks. Lee County Emergency Management, Department of Human Services, Lee County Health Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Medical Reserve Corps, Salvation Army, Lee County Long Term Recovery Group and many others played roles in the response.

Red Cross volunteer support was also critically important. Over 250 new volunteers were added to the roles, while 150 volunteers were deployed to the affected regions, many by small planes provided by the Angel Flight Foundation.

Much of this support was provided as a result of the generosity of local and national donors such as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, United Way, Chicos, WCI and many other generous donors. Residents of several communities like the Landings and companies like Florida Heart Associates gave funds set aside for holiday parties. There were also children who had lemonade stands or emptied piggy banks and many schools, golf courses and restaurants who worked hard to gather resources to assist the many affected by Hurricane Katrina.

To learn more about how Red Cross donations were spent during and following Katrina or how the Red Cross has improved its disaster response, visit www.redcross.org.