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ARC deploys local disaster relief workers to Saipan after Typhoon Soudelor hits island in Pacific Ocean

When disaster strikes, you don’t think twice, you say ‘yes’ and go where help is needed – if it’s a fire down the street or a typhoon halfway around the world.

The American Red Cross today deployed two local disaster workers from the Chicago & Northern Illinois chapter of the Red Cross to join relief efforts in Saipan after Typhoon Soudelor hit the small island of 50,000 in the western Pacific Ocean late Sunday and early Monday.

Lee Gramas of Glen Ellyn is one of the trained volunteers called to oversee field operations, including sheltering and feeding needs for displaced residents. Gramas, a volunteer regional disaster officer with the Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, has deployed to numerous national disasters including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and the Colorado floods in 2013 during his five years as a volunteer with the Red Cross. Locally, he helped lead the response efforts for the recent tornadoes in Northern Illinois in April and June, in addition responding to dozens of home fires in Chicago and surrounding communities.

Gramas, a self-employed contractor, received the call to deploy Sunday evening and started preparing to leave for the overseas relief operation with less than 48 hours notice.

“When disaster strikes, you don’t think twice, you say ‘yes’ and go where help is needed – if it’s a fire down the street or a typhoon halfway around the world,” Gramas said.

The American Red Cross is part of the disaster relief efforts on the island, which is a commonwealth of the United States in the Northern Mariana Islands. Hundreds of Saipan residents are in shelters after high winds and flooding damaged homes. Access to some roads remains impassable, and power and water services are also challenging relief operations.

Gramas joins Dave Pattengale, a 20-year Red Cross veteran in disaster services for the Chicago & Northern Illinois region, and a team of a half dozen other disaster specialists from southern and central Illinois. The team will be deployed for about two weeks.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.