By: Pam Williams, volunteer
Since the flooding in the south began three weeks ago, nearly 2,000 Red Crossers working alongside partners have provided 4,700 overnight stays in 60 shelters; served 290,000 meals and snacks; distributed more than 119,000 relief items including comfort kits and cleaning supplies; and provided nearly 9,000 health and mental health consultation.
I deployed to Louisiana as part of the External Relations team. As a Government Operations Lead, I helped coordinate necessary services and activities with local, state, federal and Tribal government partners and worked with our Community Partner Services volunteers who identify non-government partners, private agencies and/or organizations and members of the affected communities to assist those affected by the disaster.
This was my 22nd deployment and several of them have been in response to floods. My friends think I’m off to see the country, and I suppose they’re right, but I’m seeing it in pain. However, while each disaster and each response is different I have found one constant – I am seeing people at their best. Whether it is Red Cross volunteers who leave their lives and families to respond, community groups who step up to help their neighbors or those affected by the disaster who are amazingly resilient there is a spirit that moves people forward.
Since returning to Northeast Ohio, here are some of the things I have learned about the response in Louisiana:
- This is the largest sheltering operation for the Red Cross in Louisiana since Hurricane Gustav and Ike in 2008, and Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
- As many as 12,000 people have been impacted by the flooding across the state with hundreds of residences either destroyed or receiving major damage.
- The Red Cross estimates that we will spend between $8.5 million and $11.5 million helping people affected by spring floods and storms across Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee – and we haven’t raised anywhere near the millions of dollars we’re spending to provide the relief needed.
- Since the flooding began, the Red Cross and our partners have provided more than 3,000 overnight stays in 30 shelters; served 216,000 meals and snacks; distributed 53,000 relief items including comfort kits and cleaning supplies; and provided 3,800 health and mental health consultations in Louisiana alone. Over three weeks into this response operation we are still sheltering affected residents and pockets of previously unidentified people are popping up everyday. There are over 430 areas that continue to be marked as inaccessible so our Disaster Assessment teams can’t yet get in to see how badly the homes have been affected.
The Red Cross has also deployed hundreds of volunteers (like me) to staff these disasters–and we are appealing for additional Red Cross volunteers now. The time and talent of every volunteer makes a real difference in people’s lives. Go to redcross.org/volunteer today to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.