It’s a hot, muggy day in Hillaryville, Louisiana, but that doesn’t stop Steve Casquarelli and Miguel Moreno from jumping in and out of an American Red Cross truck, handing out clean up supplies to the residents of this South Louisiana neighborhood. It’s backbreaking work, but they take it in stride.
“It feels good to give things away; that we can help them get back on track with their lives,” said Moreno.
Casquarelli and Moreno are Red Cross volunteers with the F.D.N.Y. Disaster Assistance Response Team (D.A.R.T.). The team was established in 1989 in partnership with the F.D.N.Y and the Red Cross in Greater New York. The team is comprised of both active-duty and retired New York City Firefighters who stand ready to deploy into natural and man-made disaster areas all over the country. D.A.R.T. members receive training from the Red Cross in the areas of logistics, bulk distribution, disaster assessment and government liaison operations and donate their vacation time to deploy and help communities across the country in their time of need alongside the Red Cross.
“You can’t plan a disaster,” said Casquarelli. “Mother Nature is going to do her thing unexpectedly.” That’s exactly what happened when about 6.9 trillion gallons of rain pummeled Louisiana between August 8 and 14, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue.
Handing out clea-up kits is one way the Red Cross, in conjunction with D.A.R.T., is helping the people of Louisiana get back on their feet. Hillaryville resident James White’s home took on more than four feet of water during the rain that pummeled parts of his state. When the Red Cross arrived with clean-up supplies, he was in the middle of gutting his home and was grateful for the help.
“I feel they are doing a good job in a time of need,” White said of the Red Cross and D.A.R.T. “They are here for us when we need them. They are special; it’s good to know somebody cares.”
For Casquarelli, deploying to disasters is his way of giving back to all those who came to help his city 15 years ago on 9/11.
“For myself, on 9/11, everyone poured into the city to help,” he said. “For me, this is payback. I want to help you the way you’ve helped me.”
For Moreno, it’s all about neighbors helping neighbors and bringing hope. “I feel it my heart,” he said. “They come out not looking too good; but they see the supplies and a smile comes. It lifts their spirits.”