— — Local charities say they're well stocked with supplies following an outpouring of support from around the country after last week's chemical leak.
But while there are plenty of bottled water and paper products on hand, the charities still need funding to continue helping Kanawha Valley residents grappling with the after-effects of the leak.
Patti Phillips, Catholic Charities' director of development, said the recent water crisis could be devastating for low-income families or individuals on fixed budgets.
"The extra purchases they made of water and paper supplies has dipped into their food budget or their utilities," she said.
And because the contaminated water forced many businesses to close temporarily, some employees' paychecks will be significantly lower in the coming weeks.
Catholic Charities and the United Way of Central West Virginia hope to provide some relief by offering financial assistance to those who might have trouble making ends meet.
John Ballengee, executive director of the United Way of Central West Virginia, said it's important that people donate money to the relief fund because it's still unclear how many people will need assistance.
"We really don't have any idea whether it will be 100 people or 1,000 people," he said. "We want to be ready so we can help anybody that has a need."
Ballengee said the money would be distributed according to a set of criteria "to make sure we're identifying the folks that need the most help."
The United Way hasn't finalized those criteria yet, however.
To contribute to the Kanawha Valley Chemical Disaster Relief fund, contact Catholic Charities of West Virginia at 1-888-900-2989 or visit www.ccwva.org. You can also contact the United Way of Central West Virginia by visiting its website at www.unitedwaycwv.org or calling 304-340-3500.
You also can mail or drop off a check at United Way's Charleston headquarters at 1 United Way Square, Charleston, WV 23501.
The American Red Cross also is in need of funding. Spokeswoman Krista Farley said the organization passed out more than 500,000 bottles of water after the leak, calling in 84 Red Cross employees from surrounding states to help out.
Farley said Red Cross does not need any additional bottled water or supplies at this time. However, the organization continues to help the community in other ways, like responding to single-family house fires, and still needs monetary donations to help fulfill those needs.
To donate to the Red Cross, call 304-340-3650 or visit www.redcross.org.
On Jan. 9, county officials began receiving reports of a strong licorice smell throughout the Kanawha Valley. The smell turned out to be the first sign of a massive chemical leak that left 300,000 people in nine counties without tap water.
Some residents had to wait more than a week before they could use the water again. In the meantime, donations of water, paper goods, baby wipes and other supplies poured into the Charleston area from around West Virginia and other states.