Fox Cities residents lend a hand in the Gulf

By Jim Collar:  jcollar@postcrescent.com

Disaster workers travel south to provide aid to hurricane victims

Neenah resident Harvey Lorenz arrived at an American Red Cross staging area in East Texas on Thursday ready to assess the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.

As the weakened and slow-moving storm soaked the Gulf Coast, Lorenz awaited word on when he’d put his training to use.

“I have no idea yet,” Lorenz, 72, said Thursday afternoon.

Lorenz is among 15 Red Cross disaster workers from northeast Wisconsin sent to the Gulf Coast to provide aid for victims of Hurricane Isaac. The hurricane made landfall late Tuesday and has caused significant flooding in coastal areas of Mississippi and Louisiana.

The Red Cross has deployed more than 2,700 trained disaster workers from across the country to offer aid in the Gulf region.

In the Fox Valley, Barbara Pilon of Neenah left for Texas on Wednesday to serve on a team coordinating the distribution of clean-up gear and Kathleen Brockman of Freedom headed to the Gulf Coast to help with health services. Dennis Nagan of Appleton drove the local chapter’s emergency response vehicle south and began distributing food, water and other supplies Thursday.

Barbara Behling, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Northeast Wisconsin, expects volunteers will be in the region for quite awhile.

Though Isaac didn’t carry the strength of Katrina seven years ago, Behling said, “this is going to be a long-term recovery effort for many of the people who live in that area.”

The first workers from northeast Wisconsin left for Florida a week ago thinking the Tampa area would suffer the brunt of the storm.

“No one can truly predict what Mother Nature is going to do,” Behling said.

Hurricane Isaac marks the 10th deployment for Lorenz, the Neenah resident who flew into Houston on Wednesday and traveled on Thursday to the Red Cross staging area in Orange, Texas, near the Louisiana border. His first deployment was in response to Hurricane Katrina, after which he worked as a case worker assisting evacuees in Tupelo, Miss.

His latest deployment has been “relatively chaotic,” said Lorenz, who spent Wednesday night on a cot in a church with 110 people. But he is happy to help bring comfort to disaster victims.

“I get a lot out of being able to help somebody,” Lorenz said. “It’s a meaningful experience to see your challenge, be put to use and see the results of the work being done.”

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