American Red Cross volunteers are out in their local communities each and every day helping those in need. But when large disasters strike, volunteers from all over the country respond to assist with relief efforts.
Debbie Lavender of Little Egg Harbor is among the hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers responding across the South where devastating flooding has forced thousands of people from their homes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas.
Debbie has spent the past two weeks in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, helping with relief efforts. The licensed practical nurse has teamed up with a disaster health worker and a mental health care provider. Together, the three volunteers set off into the community each day to provide medical services as needed to those affected by flooding in the area.
The group provides vital medial services to dozens of people each day and connects them to medical centers and mental health care providers in the area that can provide further assistance.
Being able to provide direct assistance to those in need has provided an outlet for Debbie’s passion for service and medical expertise. Though the days have been long, Debbie describes the experience as “fulfilling and extremely rewarding.”
RED CROSS RESPONSE The Red Cross continues to operate shelters and provide meals for those affected. Tuesday night more than 275 people sought help in 16 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.
Red Cross disaster mental health workers are helping people cope in the aftermath of many challenging situations. Disaster health volunteers are also helping to replace needed items like prescription medications and eyeglasses. In some areas, multi-agency resource centers are available where representatives of various local agencies can assist impacted residents in the coming days with information, basic needs and referrals to programs and services.
Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people to create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate help from other agencies. In some situations, the Red Cross may provide direct financial support to people who need extra help.
Since the flooding began, more than 1,600 Red Cross workers working alongside partners have provided 4,200 overnight stays in 60 shelters; served 194,000 meals and snacks; distributed 80,000 relief items including comfort kits and cleaning supplies; and provided 5,600 health and mental health consultations.
HOW TO HELP People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief to support disasters big and small by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.
By Kathleen Dillon, America Red Cross Volunteer