Red Cross biomedical worker reflects on first disaster deployment

By Tracie Endress, American Red Cross Biomedical Services Recruitment Account Specialist

Editor’s note:  Tracie Endress was deployed in September 2018 as a Red Cross disaster volunteer for the first time in support of those affected by Hurricane Florence.

Photo credit: Tracie Endress, American Red Cross

I donate blood and plasma to the American Red Cross, and knew I wanted to do more so I enrolled as a disaster volunteer. I decided to volunteer because I wanted to make a difference and help people who needed support during this disaster. This was my first disaster deployment. I served in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for two weeks. I was very proud to be a part of this Red Cross disaster response. I met a lot of amazing people who were affected by the disaster and who wanted to give back by volunteering for the Red Cross themselves. It was heartwarming to see how someone who was affected wanted to join the American Red Cross mission to help those in need.

florence 5I worked in the warehouse that packed and distributed the emergency supplies to areas that were affected by the storm. Driving into the disaster areas with 16-foot box trucks to help was very humbling and rewarding. When the people saw us, you could see hope in their eyes, knowing that others cared. People started helping us unpack the trucks and move the items. They would hug me and say, “Thank you for coming.”  The days were long, but we knew we couldn’t stop until all the supplies were dispersed.

While in North Carolina, I met a lot of people who were taking the same journey with me as disaster volunteers. I keep in touch with the volunteers that were there with me. We are family now.  It was a great experience, and I am honored to be a part of the American Red Cross Disaster Volunteer team.

Thousands of American Red Cross workers have mounted a massive response to help tens of thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Florence. See the Hurricane Florence one-month update here.

To apply to become a Red Cross volunteer, complete a volunteer application here.

It’s Not Over – Florence Flooding Continues in the Carolinas

The threat from Hurricane Florence is far from over as rivers continue to rise in the Carolinas and extremely dangerous flooding is still occurring. Getting help into affected areas is challenging, and will be for some time.  One of the four crews deployed in an Emergency Response Vehicle from Northeast Ohio had to spend the night in a fire house in Marion, South Carolina on Monday, after rising waters cut off their return route.

Some Red Cross workers are finding creative ways to deliver relief to residents stranded by floodwaters, as you can see in this video.

  • Some 18 counties in North Carolina are still under evacuation orders and water rescues are continuing.
  • Nearly 1,000 roads are closed and as many as 220,000 people are without power. Many gas stations are still closed due to power outages and a lack of fuel.

This is a heartbreaking and dangerous situation, and the American Red Cross is working around the clock to provide safe shelter and comfort for the hundreds of thousands of people impacted.

  • The Red Cross is mobilizing more than 140 emergency response vehicles, including 4 from Northeast Ohio, and more than 110 trailers of equipment and supplies, including meals and enough cots and blankets for more than 100,000 people.
  • The Red Cross is working with the National Guard, U.S. Army and other partners to transport disaster workers and supplies to areas in need. On Tuesday, about 40 Red Cross volunteers were flown on military helicopters into areas cut off by flood waters.
  • The Red Cross is working with dozens of partners to support feeding, sheltering, transportation and other disaster services.

Due to Hurricane Florence, nearly 200 blood drives have been forced to cancel, resulting in over 5,200 uncollected blood and platelet donations.

  • We expect additional blood drive cancellations over the coming days, with fewer blood and platelet donors available to give at drives in and around affected areas due to flooding and poor weather conditions.

About 2,800 Red Cross disaster workers, including about four dozen from Northeast Ohio, have been mobilized to help feed, shelter, and support people affected by Florence and the subsequent flooding.

To help support the disaster relief operation, Fox 8 in Cleveland will be broadcasting live reports on Thursday, September 20, from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm.  The station will be promoting a Hurricane Florence disaster relief hotline number, giving viewers the chance to make a donation over the phone.  Donations can also be made online at 1-800 RED CROSS, or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation.

Homes Remain Under Water Weeks After Hurricane Matthew Hits Land

Thousands of people in the southeast continue to deal with the effects of Hurricane Matthew more than two weeks after the storm made landfall. We are with them, providing food, shelter and help with recovery. The Red Cross and partners have already served more than 1.3 million meals and snacks and provided more overnight shelter stays than after Superstorm Sandy. The massive response is far from over, and Red Cross workers will support those affected for as long as help is needed.

 

As we continue to provide critical relief to those affected by Hurricane Matthew, the Red Cross will begin helping residents start the recovery process by connecting them to services and resources they need. A good first step is to register with FEMA, as there is federal assistance available to help people recover. For those who do not qualify for federal disaster assistance, the Red Cross is able to provide limited financial assistance to ensure that they have access to additional support.

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Teresa Bellamy of Fair Bluff, N.C.

In the U.S. alone, the response to Hurricane Matthew is anticipated to cost between approximately $24 – $28 million. At present, we have raised only $8.1 million in designated donations and pledges for Hurricane Matthew—so we need the public’s support to help the thousands of people still suffering.

The Red Cross depends on donations to provide immediate relief. Help people affected by Hurricane Matthew by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

Volunteering Spans Generations for One Red Cross Family

Grandfather, Grandson in North Carolina Helping with Hurricane Response

Alejandro Reynoso is trying to teach his grandson a lesson. His classroom is a Red Cross emergency response vehicle.

Mr. Reynoso and his grandson, 18-year old Dominic drove the ERV from Arizona to North Carolina to help people affected by Hurricane Matthew.

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“I think we should all take some time to contribute to society,” Mr. Reynoso says.  “It’s more of a duty.”

Dominic just graduated from high school, and isn’t sure what he wants to do in the future.  But for the present, he and his grandfather are busy dishing out bratwurst and baked beans, canned pears and potato chips to North Carolina residents impacted by flooding and other storm damage.

They make a good team.

“That lady told me she hadn’t eaten in three days,” Dominic says of one flood-affected resident, who received food prepared by the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization.  He gave her two meals and a case of bottled water.  “She said she has no water either.”img_2663

Mr. Reynoso is a Vietnam veteran who left his engineering firm to volunteer in North Carolina.  “That’s the price you pay.  It’s unconditional.  The reward is being asked to come back.”

That is the lesson he hopes to impart on his grandson.

If you would like to volunteer for the Red Cross, log onto redcross.org.

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Photos and story: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross

Recovery Continues on East Coast

Twelve days have passed since Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the United States.  Many areas remain flooded. 26 Red Cross shelters remain open, with over 1,400 individuals seeking lodging there on Monday night.

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As waters begin to recede, the second stage of the Red Cross recovery efforts will begin. We will start to work with those affected to provide navigation through the web of assistance available to them, not just through the Red Cross, but through other organizations such as FEMA.

 

Some of our img_2537volunteers are out in communities – as conditions permit – across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to provide warm meals and relief supplies. Some are on the ground accessing the damages to homes (a step necessary for a family to obtain financial assistance), while others begin to meet with families and individuals to help them map out their own recovery process.

img_2526All told, the Red Cross has mobilized almost 5,000 disaster workers, 235 response vehicles, 19 partner-supported kitchens as well as truckloads of water, ready-to-eat meals, cots, blankets, kitchen items, cleaning supplies and comfort kits, insect repellant, gloves, masks, shovels, rakes, coolers and more.

Overall, Red Cross and community partners have served more than 931,000 meals and snacks, distributed more than 187,000 relief items, supported more than 19,000 health and mental health services, and provided 93,000 overnight stays in shelters.

How can you help?

MAKE A DONATION – The Red Cross depends on donations to provide immediate relief. Help people affected by Hurricane Matthew by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word MATTHEW to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.

GIVE BLOOD – We’d also like to ask public to remember the blood needs of the Red Cross. Hurricane Matthew has already forced the cancellation of many blood drives along the East Coast, and more could be cancelled. If you’re in an unaffected area, please give blood or platelets now, so we can continue to help patients in need. Go to redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

BECOME A VOLUNTEER – People can make a difference in someone’s life by becoming a Red Cross volunteer. To join us, visit redcross.org/neo and click on VOLUNTEER today to learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application. To learn more about national deployment, read this story.

 

Volunteers from Across the U.S. Help in N.C.

Red Cross volunteers have come from all over the U. S. to help residents affected by flooding following Hurricane Matthew. About three dozen workers are from Northeast Ohio

Flooding in North Carolina is expected to persist through the weekend, as rivers continue to crest six days post-hurricane.

At the Western Prong Baptist Church in Whiteville, North Carolina on Thursday, October 13, volunteers from several states arrived in Emergency Response Vehicles to deliver meals prepared at the mobile kitchen set up by the Southern Baptist Convention.

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A dozen states were represented by Red Cross volunteers, who traveled to North Carolina, some of them driving for days, to help residents by distributing food, water, and clean-up kits.

Volunteers came o the kitchen in ERVs from Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.  They have been trained by the Red Cross to help deliver mass care during disasters.

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New volunteers can be trained to drive ERVs, run shelters, and many more essential services provided by the Red Cross during times of crisis.  If you’re interested, log onto  redcross.org/neo and click the volunteer tab to begin the application process.

Volunteer Stories: Why They Give Back

North Carolina Residents Help Their Neighbors Following Hurricane Matthew

Leween and James McIntosh joined hands with members of a family who had taken refuge from Hurricane Matthew inside a shelter at a school in Bergaw, North Carolina, and said grace.  The Red Cross volunteers then joined the family for a Sunday dinner of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and beans, prepared by school cafeteria workers.

It will be some time before the family of India Davis will have a home cooked meal.  Their home was destroyed by a tree that fell during the storm.

“It’s a miracle no one was hurt,” said the grandmother of two rambunctious boys.

red-cross-volunteers-james-and-leween-mcintosh-assist-india-davis-at-a-shelter-in-bergaw-nc-after-her-house-was-destroyed-by-hurricane-matthewThe McIntoshes are Red Cross caseworkers who helped the Davis family obtain initial assistance, and who will help them develop a plan for recovering from the losses they suffered.  They have been Red Cross volunteers for just over a year.

Following Sunday supper, Red Cross volunteers Luis Diaz and his son Eric got busy assembling cots for the night ahead, while Luis’ wife Anabela completed required paperwork.  The Diaz family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina from New York several years ago, for the lower cost-of-living and better schools. Luis says he began volunteering with the Red Cross 10 years ago.  He started as a community relations liaison, and now helps people during disasters.

“I wanted to give back to the community.”

It wasn’t long before Anabela began to volunteer as well. She, too wanted to give back.

“I liked the activities, what he was doing, and what he was giving to the community.”

Their son Eric became a volunteer when he turned 18.

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Volunteers like the McIntosh and Diaz families are essential to the mission of the American Red Cross. More than 90% of the Red Cross workforce is comprised of volunteers, people who, like the McIntosh and Diaz family help their neighbors when disaster strikes.

Log onto redcross.org to learn more about becoming a volunteer.

In addition, we will host a four hour session on how you can volunteer to assist those affected by Hurricane Matthew, and other disasters, this Friday, October 14 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Greater Cleveland office at 3747 Euclid Ave.

Reserve a seat by emailing luis.rivera@redcross.org or call 216-426-7549.

Photo credit: Jim McIntyre/American Red Cross