Local Red Cross volunteers to help Sandy victims

Written by Charles Davis Green Bay Press-Gazette

American Red Cross volunteer Donna LaPlante of Little Suamico stopped at a Green Bay site before heading to New York to help victims of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 30, 2012. / Charles Davis/Press-Gazette

Two local American Red Cross volunteers are leaving this morning for New York to help feed victims impacted by post-tropical cyclone Sandy.

“They are going to be living in conditions and working in conditions that are identical to the people they’re helping,” said Steve Hansen, chapter executive of the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin. “This is not a vacation for our volunteers.”

Sandy hit the East Coast on Monday, leading to an estimated billion of dollars in damage, millions of people without electric power, thousands of flight cancellations, extreme flooding and at least 17 deaths.

Ginny Gibson of Iron Mountain, Mich., and Donna LaPlante of Little Suamico, will take an emergency response vehicle on a 17-hour drive to the East Coast. The women are expected to arrive late Wednesday in Middletown, N.Y., where they will then be directed to help residents in an area impacted by the storm. The response mission is expected to last from two to three weeks. Southern Baptist disaster relief teams will prepare meals, and the women will then deliver the food to neighborhoods that have been damaged.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to help and give someone a warm meal who hasn’t had a warm meal for days,” Gibson said, adding she has previously responded to several natural disasters, including helping victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Tuesday, the women helped load the vehicle with bedding, water and equipment at the American Red Cross offices at 121 Bader St. On the drive there, the volunteers expect to face road closures, downed trees and severe weather.

More than 3,000 American Red Cross volunteers nationwide are responding to the East Coast, Hansen said. Seven volunteers and one employee from the eastern region of Wisconsin already have responded, and another 15 volunteers are on standby to travel to the region once travel restrictions have been removed.

About 30 American Red Cross volunteers from the eastern region of Wisconsin helped in Gulf Coast relief efforts after Hurricane Isaac hit in late August, Hansen said.

“It’s our job to anticipate and prepare for these types of disasters. This is what we do,” he added.

The storm canceled about 100 blood drives in the East Coast region on Monday and local residents are encouraged to donate blood, Hansen said.

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

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