On a rainy Friday afternoon in late August, Ruth Lathrop (of Windham) and Joyce Baron (of Athens) set off on a 1,678 mile drive from Portland, Maine to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
As part of the massive Red Cross disaster relief effort, Ruth and Joyce drove an Emergency Response Vehicle loaded with bottled water, snacks and supply kits straight to the Red Cross headquarters in Baton Rouge. They were one of ten Emergency Response Vehicles from New England that were making the trip down to the region to help those individuals who were impacted by the unimaginable devastation after floodwaters inundated the state.
The flooding in Louisiana is likely the worst natural disaster in the United States since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Shelters have been open for the last three weeks and provided more than 50,000 overnight stays to those who have been evacuated from their homes.
Having grown up in South Carolina, Ruth, a Disaster Response volunteer with the organization for the last year, has firsthand knowledge of how devastating flooding can be on families. “My family was affected by Hurricane Hugo. They had a really hard time. I was sending supplies to them from up here [in Maine] because I wasn’t a Red Cross volunteer at the time and, now, I am a Red Cross volunteer and I can be right there and help everyone,” impacted by this flooding.
For two to three weeks, Ruth and Joyce will be visiting impacted neighborhoods to distribute food, water and relief supplies such as personal hygiene items, insect repellant, cleaning kits and bleach, as well as water and snacks to those first responders who have been part of the relief efforts.
Over the last eight months, more than 50 American Red Cross in Mainers have deployed in response to disaster incidents like the Orlando shooting, Flint, Michigan water contamination crisis, wildfires in California, flooding in Louisiana, West Virginia, Texas and Mississippi. With more than 1,100 volunteers in Maine, the Red Cross responds to disasters big and small, including home fires, hurricanes and blizzards impacting the state.
Louisiana’s devastating flooding has uprooted lives, destroyed homes and left thousands with nothing but the few items they were able to escape with. The Red Cross will remain in impacted communities in the weeks and months to come to provide help and the resources residents need to return to a sense of normalcy.
To learn how you can help, visit www.MaineRedCross.org.