State Red Cross volunteers head east to New York to deliver food and beverages, help with disaster

By Charles Davis  Green Bay Press-Gazette

Jerry Prellwitz all ready and heading to help.

Jerry Prellwitz is making the 17-hour drive to Middletown, N.Y., to help people there prepare for Hurricane Irene.

“I don’t know what to expect. I’m hoping to get out there and find not much to do,” said Prellwitz, a volunteer with the  American Red Cross who also provided disaster relief earlier this year after deadly tornadoes hit Mississippi.

Prellwitz, 62, of Green Bay planned to leave Friday in an emergency services vehicle with Neenah-area volunteer David Mooney.

The vehicle mostly is empty, except for cases to carry food and drinks. They expect to be joined on the East Coast today by Red Cross volunteers nationwide, as well as volunteers from Manitowoc and Fond du Lac.

Mooney served in relief in two trips to North Dakota in response to flooding there.

“I guess I just like to help people,” he said, “and the people who are involved are just tremendous. A lot of them have been doing this for years.”

Prellwitz and Mooney expected to be gone for up to three weeks. Although Middletown, N.Y., is the immediate destination, volunteers may be needed elsewhere on the East Coast after Irene passes.

Nick Cluppert, emergency services manager for the American Red Cross of East Central Wisconsin, said Mooney is one of four volunteers from the region headed east in response to the hurricane.

Another Neenah volunteer will travel to Massachusetts and will work on shelter projects.

“The scary part is the path of the hurricane and the number of people it could impact. You’re talking about a very densely populated area,” said Steve Maricque, director of regional operations for the Lakeland Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Maricque said he was notified Thursday by Red Cross headquarters that volunteers were needed from the area.

Jerry Prellwitz, Red Cross volunteer, being interviewed by Charles Davis, Green Bay Press Gazette, Reporter.

In the event of damage, Prellwitz will help set up shelters and drive to areas to provide food and beverages as needed, Maricque said.

Mental health workers could also join the effort to counsel victims, Maricque said.

He advised those in the area to donate blood in anticipation of shortages.

It’s possible Hurricane Irene could drop to a Category 1 storm — with 74 to 95 mph winds — by the time it’s projected to hit the New York area midday Sunday, Tasos Kallas, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ashwaubenon, said Friday.

“At that point, it would be more of a rain and waves swelling,” Kallas said.

Possible dangers then would shift from wind damage to flooding, he added.

cedavis@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.

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