By Ben Horn, Red Cross Volunteer
October 1st of every year is World Smile Day and it is celebrated by putting smiles on others’ faces and practicing acts of kindness. After Hurricane Ida make landfall on August 29, 2021 and devastated communities from the Gulf Coast to New England, the Red Cross deployed more than 2,000 disaster workers to impacted regions to help those in need and somehow bring positivity to a difficult situation.
“This is a long road to recovery for folks,” said Joe Lenz, a Disaster Program Manager for the Red Cross, “Any help that you can provide, whether it be your time, energy, money, or spreading of information to promote awareness, it all makes a difference in providing the support these communities need.”
Lenz had been working on relief efforts in Maryland and Delaware; but was soon deployed to Louisiana where damage from Hurricane Ida was more severe. When he arrived, Lenz said he noticed people affected by the storm were ready to not only help themselves, but also those around them.
“What strikes me most is how supportive the people of Louisiana are of one another,” said Lenz. “There is so much selflessness in a time of great need and chaos. It is truly humbling.”
Rebecca Callahan, a Red Cross volunteer who helped in Ida recovery efforts in Maryland as well as New Jersey, notes this sense of unity has prevailed, bringing together people from different walks of life.
“My teammates were amazing and a lot of the heavy lifting was done by the earlier team who set up the shelter,” said Callahan. We made sure everyone had their basic needs met for the night, and I pulled out my knowledge of Spanish to help folks getting in late or getting up very early for work.”
Ida caused widespread power outages, flooding, and destroyed property and life in its path. Since the storm first threatened the U.S., the Red Cross has provided more than 36,000 overnight stays for families and individuals with no other safe place to go. Plus, more than 7,000 people have turned to the Red Cross for financial assistance, in Ida’s wake. And while the storm has left so many in dire circumstances, World Smile Day is a good reminder that practicing kindness and serving those in need helps communities to rebuild and return to a sense of normalcy.
Said Lenz, “These folks are ready to push forward with energy and tenacity. Being kind and thoughtful only helps in that. Acting as one more advocate for someone experiencing incredible loss is the best fuel any of us can provide.”