HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The American Red Cross is expected to send dozens of volunteers from Virginia to Florida to aid in recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian.
According to the non-profit humanitarian organization, 300 Red Cross volunteers are currently on the ground, six of which are from the Virginia area. Dozens more volunteers from Virginia, including the Richmond area, are on standby to respond when the area is safe.
Deborah ‘Debbie’ Watson has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for six years and will be flying to Florida this weekend. Recently, she has been sent to disasters across the country. Now, she will be assisting other staff members in Florida.
“I was just in Kentucky. I was working directly one on one with the clients that had just gone through the devastating floods,” Watson said. “I was just in California with the fire, so there must be something about this that’s in my blood. I want to be able to go and help somebody. To be the first person that looks at somebody and says, somebody is here for you and you’re not going to be alone.”
Jonathan McNamara, the Regional Communications Director for the American Red Cross, told 8News that relief supplies are already in position. Volunteers are delivering critical services in the path of the storm like medical supplies and hot meals.
“You’re dealing with a significantly dangerous situation and that’s why the evacuation notices that have been sent out are so critical to getting these families into our emergency evacuation shelters so that they have a safe space,” McNamara said. “These are the types of services that we know are going to be critically important in these areas.”
Two-person teams will be driving down in emergency response vehicles from Virginia. It is anticipated that all Red Cross emergency response vehicles will be sent to the state. The vehicles have the capacity to serve up to 1,000 meals at a time, and are loaded full of first-aid kits and supplies to clean up debris, like rakes and shovels.
Volunteers are willing to be deployed for up to three weeks and could be sent to Florida weeks, or even months, after the storm hits. According to McNamara, in the immediate aftermath of Ian, volunteers will provide hot meals, provide clean-up kits and replace medications. In the weeks after, volunteers will be working with each individual family to determine their specific needs.
“We’re likely going to be sheltering tens of thousands of people who have left their homes, and then as the days and weeks go on, our role changes,” McNamara said.
To help here at home, residents can sign up to volunteer, donate to the Red Cross or donate blood. McNamara said hundreds of blood drives will be canceled in Florida, so donating blood will not only support Virginia hospitals, but it will allow the Red Cross and other blood supply organizations to make sure hospitals in the path of the storm have the resources they need. The Red Cross can move blood across the healthcare system.
Click here to schedule an appointment to donate blood.