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Good New Year For Red Cross Call Centre

Good New Year for New Zealand Red Cross Call Centre.

The New Zealand Red Cross South Asia Tsunami call centre had a quiet start to 2005.

Four people kept the lines open after midnight and the first call of the year was at 12.01am, from a father to say that his son who had been unaccounted for, had telephoned and that all was well.

“Staff were cheering – it was a fantastic way to start the year,” New Zealand Red Cross Operations Manager Andrew McKie said.

The inquiry centre received just a handful of calls overnight – including several to wish Red Cross volunteers a happy New Year. From today the call centre hours will be cut back from around the clock to 8am-midnight.

While the phones are still ringing, the number of calls during the day has dropped back from as many as 200 calls an hour to about 50. Many of the calls coming in now are to offer assistance or to report that New Zealanders previously unaccounted for had contacted friends or family. However, Mr McKie says new inquiries are continuing to come in.

A large number of callers have offered to run fundraising events or collections to contribute to the Red Cross South Asia Tsunami appeal in their local areas. “New Zealanders never cease to amaze us with their generosity at times such as this. So many people are looking for any way possible to assist.”

Mr McKie said volunteers had done a terrific job helping to keep the call centre running 24-hours since Tuesday. “It is remarkable that we have had the volunteers to man all 16 phones 24 hours a day – it demonstrates the strength of New Zealand Red Cross as a volunteer-based organisation.

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The first donation of the year was for $1000, followed shortly after by a $1250 donation. Donations to the Red Cross South Asia Tsunami appeal today reached $2 million (excluding the Government’s initial $500,000 contribution). The majority of donations have been made through the automated 0900 31 100 number, which accepts automatic $20 donations. Donations can also be made at www.redcross.org.nz, or at branches of the ASB, BNZ, Westpac, TSB, ANZ and National Banks and at all Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown supermarkets.

Mr McKie says the Red Cross is not collecting door to door. He recommends members of the public contact their regional Red Cross office if they have any concerns about local collections.

All money raised will go directly to providing relief, as the Red Cross takes no money from special appeals for administration costs and Telecom has waived its standard 70-cent charge on each 0900 phone donation.

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