Hurricane Irene Hits and Michiana Responds

SOUTH BEND, IN - As Hurricane Irene makes landfall and continues up the coast the need for volunteers is growing as more damage is reported.  The St. Joseph County Red Cross has already received calls asking for more support on the east coast.

“We’ve gotten a couple more volunteers out, we’ve got seven total coming from Marshall County and St. Joseph county, another five from Elkhart, one volunteer from Porter,” explained Gena Robinson, Director of Emergency Services for St. Joseph County Red Cross.

Robinson is in charge of organizing the volunteers before they head east.  On Saturday, she briefed Austin Schultz and Mary Nagui, both from Mishawaka, before they fly to Rhode Island ahead of the storm.

“Yesterday morning we were asked if we were ready to be deployed,” described Mary Nagui.

Neither has been on the scene of a hurricane before now.

“I’m feeling a little nervous about this one, but I’ve been to one (disaster site) before,” explained Austin Schultz. “In North Dakota, the floods there but this one is, of course, different than that one so I’m feeling a little nervous.”

Robinson gave them instructions for working in shelters on scene.  She also gave them money from the Red Cross that not only covers their expenses, but will help the local communities they will be serving.

“Most of the places that we’re sending people to: Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the Outer Banks.  They’re vacation destinations and right now they’re losing money hand over fist because people have evacuated,” Robinson explained.

Volunteers are urged to buy food and supplies from local businesses in hard hit areas to help stimulate damaged economies and help recovery.  The same instructions they’ll be giving to volunteers who’ll be called up in the coming days.

“We do expect tomorrow once the storm has actually made landfall and caused damage we can really be able to assess what the needs are,” Robinson explained.  “So we expect the next round of calls to come either later on today or tomorrow morning.”

Even though Robinson enjoys the job of sending out volunteers, she’s hoping she will be able to head to the coast as well.

“I would love to get out there, it’s really a wonderful experience,” Robinson described.  “It’s really a wonderful feeling to get out and help people.”

The Red Cross is always seeking more volunteers and donations.  To donate, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text “Red Cross” to 90999.  For more information go to:

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