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Local Red Cross Volunteers Continue to Help Victims of Hurricane Sandy

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Photo Credit: Red Cross

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/local-red-cross-volunteers-continue-help-victims-hurricane-sandy_53774.mp3

The Red Cross Southern Missouri Chapter sent 92 volunteers and seven staff members to help residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the east coast last October. In fact, some volunteers are still there working to make sure families whose homes were destroyed find permanent housing.

Red Cross spokesperson Nigel Holderby says they provided nearly 26,000 hours of aid after the hurricane hit.

She says the volunteers are trained to do specific jobs…

"In the very beginning we sent people who were trained to do sheltering, also feeding and driving the emergency response vehicles through the field and doing mobile feeding with the people in the areas that were most affected that didn't have any electricity for quite some time," she said.

They also sent mental health workers to help people deal with the emotional effects of the storm…

"The trauma that goes along with a disaster--it really should not be ignored, and having a trained mental health volunteer to be on scene, to really just be there to work with people and talk to people and help them cope with what they're dealing with, that's definitely a positive thing," she said.

Don Underwood started volunteering with the Red Cross Disaster Services last October soon before Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.  His first call as a member of the Disaster Assistance Team was to an apartment fire where multiple families were affected. 

He arrived with a Red Cross team to help victims of Sandy just five days after the storm hit and stayed for two weeks.

His first job was on the Safe and Well Linking Team helping people locate family members and friends.  The team encouraged people to sign up on an online database, and Underwood got to play detective…

"Because you would get a call--someone seeking someone--and you would start working away through shelters, hospitals, just making calls to neighbors if you couldn't figure it out or their relatives, 'do you know where this person is?'  And getting people back in contact with one another--that was the purpose of the team," he said.

Underwood says it was a good feeling when he was able to help reunite people.

He also helped out in Rockaway on Long Island in some low-income apartments.  According to Underwood, he and other volunteers helped the residents on many levels…

"We were literally knocking on apartment doors, apartment by apartment, you know, a seven-story-high apartments, and we'd break into teams and work our way through.  And you'd find someone who might be getting a little low on water or might be getting a little low on food, prescriptions starting to run out.  They might have been in contact with a family member, but their cell phones had started to run out, so this one lady--she had been in contact with her granddaughter, but she hadn't been able to talk to her for several days.  She wanted to talk to her and assure her she was fine, so we handed her one of our Red Cross phones and let her call," he said.

He says some residents were wary of the volunteers at first but they quickly warmed up and welcomed the help.

Holderby says besides the volunteer help she’s also grateful for those from our area who have given money to help victims of Sandy.  To make a donation, visit redcross.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.