American Red Cross volunteers traveled from all over the country joining local disaster workers to help people along the Gulf Coast. In the face of disaster, Red Cross volunteers are setting up shelters, serving meals, delivering supplies, distributing relief items and embracing those who have nowhere else to turn.
EXPERIENCE IN ACTION Lisa Sharp is a registered nurse who is managing the Red Cross shelter at the William Pitcher Junior High School in Covington, La. She knows the shelter location well as she has managed it for more than ten years. Sharp became a Red Cross volunteer about 15 years ago when she drove past the Covington Red Cross office and asked if they needed help. They signed her up as a CPR and first aid instructor, using her longtime experience as an EMT.
In 1998, Hurricane Georges was targeting the Gulf Coast and the local Red Cross office asked Sharp to drop off some supplies at a nearby shelter. When she arrived at the shelter, the shelter manager called to confirm that he was stuck in the hurricane evacuation traffic. She managed the full-capacity shelter by herself for three or four days. "We call that 'trial by fire,'" Sharp laughed.
Seven years ago, the Red Cross volunteer opened the same shelter location for Hurricane Katrina. She managed the 160-person shelter for the first five days without a break. Once help arrived, she transitioned to the role of road medic for 30 straight days.
Isaac caused heavy damage along the Gulf Coast and most of the shelter residents have power outages and damage from fallen trees and winds. Lisa is managing this shelter with a full staff of six Red Cross volunteers, a powerful generator providing electricity and a roomful of friends. Many of the shelter residents have evacuated to this shelter multiple times over the years. Walking through the sleeping area, Lisa called out "hellos" to families who first came as children and are now bringing their children to the shelter.
In Covington, local partners have made the shelter a community affair. For example, the Covington Police Department noticed the large amount of small children in this shelter and stopped by their office to pick up stuffed animals for the kids.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION As volunteers provide shelter and relief services to those need, very often they inspire others to take up the lifesaving work of the Red Cross. College student Leamon Davis III made a Red Cross shelter in Wiggins, Miss. his safe place from Isaac at the request of his parents who live in Florida.
“I was kind of nervous when I first came because I am all the way from Orlando, Fl.,” said Davis. “I would definitely do some community service hours here because I like the way they treated me. They treated me with a lot of love and I felt very welcome.”
Volunteers constitute 96 percent of the American Red Cross workforce. More information on the many different volunteer opportunities is available on this website if you would like to join us as a volunteer and help us carry out our humanitarian work.
HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross currently estimates that relief services for Isaac could cost as much as tens of millions of dollars. Costs are growing by the hour. The Red Cross has seen the public come through before when Americans need help and hopes they will do it again To donate, people can visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.