Nine area residents were among 3,000 American Red Cross volunteers providing Gulf Coast residents with food, shelter and other assistance as Tropical Storm Isaac continued an inland assault on Thursday.
The last of the volunteers – six from the Wyoming Valley and three from Lackawanna County – deployed Thursday and Friday. They were stationed in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana by Monday, said Sherry Williams, executive director of the Red Cross of Wyoming Valley.
The chapter's two Emergency Response Vehicles also were deployed with two certified drivers, said Red Cross Readiness and Response Manager Will Hontz.
The ERVs can deliver food and beverages to disaster victims at shelters. Or they can provide "mobile feedings" to residents in their neighborhoods, Hontz said.
The ERVs can also deliver supplies such as cleanup kits, rakes, shovels and tarps – items distributed in flood-struck towns in Luzerne County following Tropical Storms Irene and Lee in August and September 2011.
Hontz said some volunteers are trained in sheltering, which includes making sure disaster victims at shelters keep informed and have their basic needs met. Others are medically trained and still others have mental health training. Hontz said some Gulf Coast residents might experience flashbacks to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. For others, a hurricane evacuation could be a first-time experience.
Williams said this is a massive relief effort and the Red Cross will be there for weeks helping people recover. And after a difficult summer of responding to wildfires, power outages and floods, resources are stretched.
"We can't make these missions happen without the funds," Williams said, noting that donations can be made by mail, cell phone texts and online.
Hontz also said more volunteers are needed, either for local assistance or for three-week national deployments. Volunteers must fill out applications in person and after a background check would have to undergo "at least a good day's worth of training."
"People tend to forget, when it's not their area, what it's like (to be a disaster victim). But even when we're not working on a national disaster, we're here working locally," Hontz said.
Donations can be mailed to American Red Cross Wyoming Valley Chapter, 256 N. Sherman St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702, by phone at 823-7161, extension 322, online at www.wyomingvalley.redcross.org or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Apply to volunteer at the address above between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.