In early May, the American Red Cross helped thousands of people in 13 states who were affected by the devastating severe weather that caused deadly tornadoes and flooding. The Red Cross response stretched from the Midwest to the East Coast as Red Cross workers assisted (and are still assisting) people in Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and North Carolina.
Hundreds of people stayed in Red Cross and community shelters in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi and North Carolina. Red Cross workers also provided meals, and health and mental health services. As people started the monumental task of cleaning up their neighborhoods, the Red Cross was there with relief supplies such as brooms, buckets, gloves, shovels, rakes and tarps.
More than 1,200 trained Red Cross workers and more than 60 emergency vehicles were assigned in the hardest hit communities. Three of those volunteers came from the Central New York Region: Vince Calcara (Oneida County), Darlene Clifford (Otsego County) and Leslie Hood (Delaware County).
CNY Region Communications Officer Matt Michael asked Vince, Darlene and Leslie to share their thoughts on their deployments when they returned:
Vince Calcara, Disaster Mental Health lead, Arkansas
What the Red Cross did in Arkansas: Opened shelters, provided meals and distributed clean-up items. A Multi-Agency Resource Center opened in Conway, where people could get help from different agencies. Health Services teams supported residents in the affected areas and helped to replace prescription medications and items such as eyeglasses. Specially trained care teams helped families who lost loved ones in the storm.
Vince: “The one thing that stood out about my deployment to Arkansas is the local DMH (Disaster Mental Health) participation. There were many mental health workers from the immediate and surrounding area, which made it easier for the national responders because the local responders know the community and its people.
“Another thing I’ll always remember is the resiliency of the people in the community. I was told this tornado was the second in three years and the third in seven years, so they had been through the devastation before.”
Darlene Clifford, Staff Services supervisor, and Leslie Hood, Logistics Supply Supervisor, Alabama
What the Red Cross did in Alabama: More than 200 Red Cross workers provided shelter, meals and relief supplies to people impacted by the storm. Emergency vehicles traveled through communities to deliver meals and supplies such as rakes, shovels, trash bags and gloves. Mental health workers comforted people whose homes were damaged. Emergency aid stations and Multi-Agency Resource Centers opened to make sure residents have the support they need.
Darlene: "I was deployed to Foley, Ala., on May 2. I arrived at a very small – and I mean small – chapter in Foley on May 4 after being redirected two times. The heat was very intense but thank heavens the chapter had air conditioning (I put on a jacket inside, and took it off to go out).
"The paid employees were at first not very receptive of me being there but warmed up by the end of day two. I was in staffing support with all of my managers being in either Birmingham or Opelika. It was challenging to work that way but the learning experience was great. After a couple days everyone realized that managing distantly was not the best and I assumed the responsibility of the job on my own. I was having a great time teaching the paid staffing person how to do a job in a DR (Disaster Relief) environment as opposed to a chapter incident.
"Unfortunately I fell in a hole at the hotel and smashed my elbow and shoulder into the sidewalk. The ER doctor thought I had broken a bone in my elbow and put me in a cast and I had to return home the next day to see an orthopedic surgeon, so it was a short deployment."
Leslie: "I was deployed at the beginning of May to Arkansas, where several tornados had touched down in the area near Little Rock. Most of the time when I deploy I work in the Logistics field. Some of my duties in Arkansas included ordering supplies such as clean-up items, rakes, shovels, gloves, etc., for residents to start their clean up. I also helped keep inventory of supplies that the American Red Cross distributed to residents.
"As I think back on this trip, the one thought that stands out in my mind is how the communities came together and seemed to all pitch in and help each other. Each day, on the way to and from my assigned work location, I would see one particular area that had been in the path of a tornado. It was some sort of a mobile home business. Before I left, I had seen the determination of the people as they started to clean up this area and most of the debris was picked up. I heard the residents and business owners in the area saying 'Thank you' a lot to all that were involved in their recovery."
HOW TO HELP
Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.