Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana more than a month ago.
Irma followed in Florida.
An earthquake just struck Mexico.
Now, Hurricane Maria is headed for the East Coast.
Is the apocalypse here now?
We had a birds-eye view of how much damage a natural disaster could do to an area in Texas over the last five weeks. Our newspaper reported daily about shelters in Bell County.
I actually learned a lot about the Red Cross via the conversations with volunteers.
Did you know that volunteers make up 90 percent of the work force for the Red Cross? Volunteers respond to more than 64,000 disasters each year, according to their website.
Most volunteers are working people who take two- to three-week stints to help.
According to a press release, with a large response effort spanning multiple states, the American Red Cross is working closely with government agencies and community organizations to coordinate this multi-state relief response. Partners like AmeriCorps, Islamic Relief USA, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Baptist Convention USA are assisting to provide help and comfort.
Examples of ongoing work include: The American Red Cross has opened shelters in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, and has been mobilizing trained disaster workers across the region. Almost 300 emergency response vehicles are traveling through affected neighborhoods, distributing hot meals and relief supplies.
Red Cross Supervisor Greg Garbinsky was one of the main contacts at the former Fairway Middle School — the building that housed nearly 500 evacuees from Brazoria County and other areas.
“We are going to maintain the shelter, provide the services and try to transition people as soon as possible,” Garbinsky said as the number dwindled down a couple of weeks ago. “Nobody is going to be turned out on the street.”
Garbinsky said the Red Cross has been provided everything they need, thanks to Bell County, the Salvation Army and local organizations.
“We have been providing health services and the Salvation Army has been coordinating with local businesses and churches for meals,” Garbinsky said. “That saves us a lot of work as there is not a (functioning) commercial kitchen in the building.”
Garbinsky said the volunteers at the center have been wonderful. The area was chaotic when nine Bell County shelters will transformed into one — including pets. Security had to scan licenses for anyone who entered the building, food had to be coordinated with a number of organizations, and donations were coming in from everywhere. The organization spent a lot of time working with Bell County to transport evacuees all over the area and take them home.
Garbinsky reminded us all that the real work was just starting for most of the evacuees — the cleanup of their homes, garages and yards when they returned home.
One of the volunteers, a lady from Pennsylvania, served as the point at the front desk. She was volunteering for a three-week period and was probably heading to Florida after the Killeen shelter closed down.
The Red Cross reported on its website: “Thank you for your interest in volunteering for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. We are thrilled with the outpouring of support we’ve received from volunteers like yourself, and are no longer taking new applications to support Harvey relief.
However, we encourage you to explore other virtual and onsite volunteer opportunities with Red Cross. If interested, please click the apply now button under all other volunteer opportunities.”
The website is www.redcross.org.
It is good to know in this age of political unrest that Americans still care about one another.
Jeff Steers is editor of the Copperas Cove Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7464.