By Jim McIntyre, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio
August 24, 2020- Volunteers from Northern Ohio are preparing for the storms taking aim at the Gulf Coast and have responded to the current wildfires in California and the derecho that slammed the Midwest two weeks ago.
Three volunteers have deployed to California, 5 are providing relief to residents in Iowa, and 7 have been assigned to help with any tropical storm/hurricane relief efforts required because of Marco and Laura.
John Lavelle, a volunteer who is part of the Red Cross’ Iowa disaster response team, recently provided an update to the Northern Ohio Region about his experience:
“One of the first things you learn on deployment is that flexibility is paramount. Coming to Iowa, the original assignment was for feeding. However, after about two hours, the assignment became what they call a special strike force, where our primary mission was to find out what the residents needed and where to distribute the items.
One of our stops on Saturday (August 22) was a large apartment complex, which gave me tremendous appreciation for individuals who provide food to refugee camps in the hardest hit areas around the world. Trying to maintain organization and provide the items people needed at times overwhelmed us. Experience is by far the best teacher, and following this experience, the team came up with a plan as to what to do if a similar situation happens again.
One image that stands out to me was when a resident wanted a case of water and a large bag of 12 meals, both heavy objects. We told her we would hold one of the items for her until she came back, but she refused and placed the case of water on her head and carried the box of food in her arms. She made it appear as if she was born to do this.
One of the joys of working with this team of volunteers is that several days ago we were strangers and in a short time we have become a team. We have no bosses. Everyone just seems to recognize each other’s strengths and everyone just naturally flows to what they do best to compliment the team. It is a beautiful thing to watch.”
In addition, several volunteers responded to seven home fires in Northern Ohio over the weekend, providing immediate financial assistance to more than 30 children and adults.
Additional volunteers are needed to train for disaster responses, specifically to respond to home fires locally and to staff shelters during national disaster responses. Licensed health care professionals are also needed to help people in disaster shelters.
People in good health and who are willing and able to receive free Red Cross training and can deploy for up to two weeks can visit www.redcross.org/volunteertoday, or can call 1-800-RED CROSS. The number one priority of the American Red Cross is the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, blood donors and recipients, and the people we serve, and we have implemented several measures, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to protect our workers and those who need our assistance.