American Red Cross volunteers from all over the United States have said goodbye to friends and family and headed south to help those whose lives are being affected by Tropical Storm Isaac. More than 1,000 trained disaster workers have mobilized to Florida to assist in relief operations there.
Peter Warchal is a Disaster Mental Health volunteer from Reading, Pennsylvania. Responding to Isaac is his second assignment as a Red Cross volunteer and he is happy to be called on to serve. His wife, Judy, a Professor of Psychology at Alvernia University in Reading, is also a volunteer and just returned home after helping people impacted by the wildfires in California.
“We take turns deploying,” Warchal said. “Judy just returned from helping in California with the wildfires, now it’s my turn.” The Pennsylvania resident is a licensed professional counselor and spent the last 35 years as a high school guidance counselor. When his daughter married a member of the military special forces, he and his wife, Judy, were drawn to the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces program. It was that interest that led the both of them to put their professional training into helping people impacted by disaster. “In the United States, you always see people running to a place to help others rather than running away,” he said. “The Red Cross is the vehicle to do just that.”
Behula Guydon has traveled from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to help people in Florida. It was Hurricane Katrina that inspired the mental health volunteer to join the Red Cross. A family reunion was bringing several of her relatives from New Orleans to Grand Rapids when the recommended evacuation for New Orleans was issued.
“They called me and said we’re grabbing what we can and are headed your way,” Guydon said. “I had 15 of my family members stay with us more than a month until it was safe for them to return home. That’s when I decided I needed to get involved.”
While she has been actively volunteering in her home chapter, this is her first national assignment. Her husband, Paul, is very supportive and knows that this is her passion. She is looking forward to the chance to do the work that the Red Cross does.
It was also Hurricane Katrina that drove Syracuse, New York health services volunteer Laura Smelski to want to volunteer. Now with her kids grown, she has seized the opportunity to help people. “This is on my bucket list, to get out in the community and help people,” she said. This is her second trip to Florida for the Red Cross in the last month. She returned home only a few weeks ago from Gainesville where she was on assignment from Tropical Storm Debby.
Volunteers constitute 96 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. More information on the many different volunteer opportunities is available on this web site if you would like to join us as a volunteer and help us carry out our humanitarian work.
HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross is preparing for what could be a large disaster response across multiple states over the next several weeks. People who want to help can call, click or text to make a donation today. Please consider making a donation by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.