Volunteer Connections – Coming soon!

Local volunteers play key role in national Red Cross disaster responses

Written by: Andy Thompson l News-Record Editor

Harvey Lorenz (right), Neenah, and Dennis Caillouet, North Carolina, learn how to use a handheld device for damage assessment in the area that was affected by Hurricane Isaac in Port Allen, La. Lorenz has been deployed to 10 Red Cross disaster relief missions. / Barbara Behling/submitted

When the American Red Cross put out a call for assistance in the wake of Hurricane Isaac in late August, Neenah’s Harvey Lorenz was quick to respond.

The 72-year-old Lorenz, a veteran Red Cross volunteer whose first deployment was in response to Hurricane Katrina, quickly packed a suitcase, boarded a flight and headed for the Gulf Coast.

“You get the word and within 24 hours you’re on the ground,” said Lorenz, a retired banker who has been on 10 Red Cross disaster relief missions.

Lorenz spent 16 days assisting hurricane victims in Louisiana. He flew into Houson on Aug. 30 and stayed in a shelter in Orange, Tex., because power was out at the Baton Rouge, La., airport. The next day, he traveled to Baton Rouge and stayed in a shelter for several days while assisting hurricane victims, most of whom were trying to cope with the flooding caused by massive rains.

The hurricane made landfall on Aug. 28 and caused significant flooding in coastal areas of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Lorenz was among 15 Red Cross disaster workers from northeast Wisconsin who were sent to the Gulf Coast to provide aid for victims of Hurricane Isaac. Barbara Pilon of Neenah served on a team coordinating the distribution of clean-up gear.

A considerable amount of Lorenz’ time was spent in Laplace, La., located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Not only did he assist with compiling hurricane-related financial estimates during his stretch in Louisiana, he assisted in damage assessment work and got involved in teaching other volunteers how to respond to the needs of storm victims.

When he was in Laplace, which had six to nine feet of water running through it because of the slow-moving storm, President Obama visited the community.

The work is often painstaking and the deployments are for indefinite periods of time, but Lorenz gets a great deal of satisfaction from assisting victims of disasters.

“It’s part of the recovery process,” he said. “I enjoy helping others. I’m not big on recognition, but what you do is really neat and a lot of people appreciate it. Down there (in the Gulf Coast), people have been through this so often. They are very resourceful.”

Barbara Behling, communications officer for the American Red Cross in Northeast Wisconsin, has high praise for Lorenz’ work on behalf of the Red Cross.

“Harvey tells it like it is,” said Behling, who spent two weeks in Louisiana assisting with the disaster response effort. “Harvey comes with a great sense of maturity. He’s not going to be shifted off course. He knows the mission and he knows what it takes to get it done.”

Behling said Lorenz does an outstanding job of keeping accurate financial records and data.

“He’s a finance guy by trade, but he understands the human side,” she said. “He has such a huge heart and he can really relate to people who have been affected (by disasters).”

Behling served as a public affairs chief during her deployment and focused on lining up the services that were vitally important to hurricane victims. She was based in Port Allen, which is close to Baton Rouge, but also spent some time in Madisonville, which was pounded by 16½ inches of rain in a 24-hour period.

She said houses were “wiped-off” their foundations by the torrential rains and water was “up to their eyeballs” for some residents.

“It was horrible,” Behling said.

Behling was impressed with the response to the hurricane by local, regional and national volunteers.

“You always see the best of humanity after a disaster,” she said.

— Andy Thompson: 920-729-6622, ext. 29, or athompson@newsrecord .net

American Red Cross Fire Safety Tips Help to Save Lives

Install Smoke Alarms and Create a Fire Escape Plan

This October 7-13 the American Red Cross is helping families and businesses learn how to protect themselves and others from fires in observance of National Fire Prevention Week. Last year, the Red Cross responded to about 63,000 home fires across the country by providing comfort and basic necessities to more than 82,000 families.

“We respond to about one home fire every nine minutes across the country. The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to install a smoke alarm and  develop and practice a fire escape plan,” said Steve Hansen, Chapter Executive,“Fires can spread very quickly, so everyone at home, school and work should know what to do when they hear the sound of a smoke alarm.”

 Additional recommendations include:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the house and inside bedrooms.
  • Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Test each alarm monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Ensure that household members know two ways to escape from every room and designate a place to meet outside of your house in case of a fire. Practice your plan at least twice a year.
  • Follow your escape plan in case of fire. Get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Download the American Red Cross First Aid App to get access to life-saving information on what to do for common, everyday first aid emergencies. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android.

Visit www.redcross.org/homefires for additional fire safety tips. 

Business, too, should be prepared. Fire is the most common of all business disasters. According to the United State Fire Association, non-residential building fires resulted in $2.4 billion in losses in 2010. Companies, schools and other organizations can learn how to prepare for fires and other emergencies by becoming a member of the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program at www.readyrating.org. Complete a free, online assessment of your current readiness level and receive customized feedback with tips to improve preparedness.

In addition to helping families and businesses prepare their homes and facilities for potential fires, the Red Cross is there to help those in need when fires break out. Locally, we are responded to fires every single day throughout our region! In each instance, we work with the family to provide a shoulder to lean-on, help them plan a recovery plan and provide immediate basic needs such as providing a safe place to sleep, food to eat, infant supplies, replace medications, etc.

Throughout October, we are collaborating on several local projects including delivering fire prevention door hangers in Campbellsport, Oakfield and North Fond du Lac on October 27th. This is conjunction with the fire departments and the Gannett newspaper Make a Difference Day project. We will also be at the Fox Valley Technical College Convoy of Hope on October 6th from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. and the Kimberly Clark Employee Safety Fair on October 18th. More events are also in planning stages.

“In order to continue responding to disasters like fires at homes and businesses here in throughout the greater Fox Valley and Michigan border communities, the Red Cross depends on the generous support of individuals and businesses in the community,” added Hansen. “To support our on-going prevention and responses, we ask people to make a financial gift to the Red Cross. We make it easy as you can call 800-RED-CROSS, go to redcross.org or text redcross to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

My Hurricane Isaac deployment…

My name is Barbara Behling, the Chapter’s Communications Officer and I recently returned from my Hurricane Isaac deployment. On August 28, 2012 Isaac caused great damage and destruction: he also re-energized and mobilized communities.

With much anticipation, Isaac garnered strength while sitting in the Gulf Coast deciding if he would hit Tampa during the Republican National Convention or shift west and hit New Orleans, ironically on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Both presented logistical and emotional challenges. The story you may not have heard is that a few hours north of Louisiana, small inland towns such as Madisonville, Slidell and Baton Rouge were inundated with rain; up-to 16.5 inches fell in the same area in under 24-hours. For these small towns, this was much worse than Hurricane Katrina!

I learned of one lady whose house was filling fast with rain water. Afraid she and the children would drown inside, she perched her two children to her hips, their arms tightly around her neck. She started wading through the main street of town. Unbeknown to her, the man-hole covers blew-off due to the force of water. Within an instant, three lives were lost.

The forceful winds, torrential rain, flash flooding and threatening tornadoes were what Mother Nature handed us. What we gave back was just as powerful. The Red Cross mobilized 4,800 trained responders, each with a specific goal to help people. Each armed with skills, training and more compassion than you can ever know, we put our talents to work. We opened nearly 100 shelters, each a respite for those tired, hungry and emotionally drained. We partnered with groups such as the Southern Baptists, while they can cook from scratch hundreds of thousands of meals a day, they don’t have deliver vehicles. We do. In fact five Emergency Response Vehicles around Wisconsin were active in community feeding and outreach activities. Yes, our local volunteers drove our custom made vehicles, each with Wisconsin license plates to Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. From each, our teams loaded, hauled and distributed meals at local community centers, shelters, schools, churches and throughout neighborhoods. You see when the Red Cross vehicle is coming down your street, you not only receive a hot meal, cold water and snacks, you are met with a Midwest smile. As one driver stated, “sometimes it’s not just about serving the food, you just have to stop and give them a hug too.”

Damage assessment worker marking the damage to this Louisiana home.

As our damage assessment, health services, emotional health professionals and folks like myself travel down impacted roads we meet people like George Moore, whose home was severely damaged. With the dignity and pride of serving his country, he adjusted his military hat and jacket and went to work cleaning-up. “I have survived everything, hurricanes, typhoons and serving in the military during WWII. Red Cross was there for me in 1945 and they are here for me today.”  With George’s physical challenges, it was if he mustered the strength to stand at attention when neighbors and people he never knew walked into his yard and began picking up the pieces. While we handed each ‘George’ we met free cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items, our gift is so much larger. It’s the people who stand behind us to make this happen. Whether you are deployed, supporting our Chapters at home or making an in-kind or financial gift, you were there too.

Each time I’m deployed, certain names and moments are forever engrained in my memory. I first talked with Tammy Morris, from the Madisonville, LA church. She called and asked if I could drive down to support their community outreach day.  When I said, “sure” I could hear her strong voice drop to a cracking, soft-spoken “the Red Cross is always here for us.”  I left my lodging before 6:00a.m on a Saturday. When our eyes met, we instantly hugged. She shared with my team the plan for the day. Nearly 40 community groups were gathering at the church and at the ball field by 9:00a.m.  Each group would be assigned jobs to help their community recover. Right on time, and if on cue, three American Red Cross box trucks arrived. Two hauled pre-packaged clean-up kits and water neatly stacked on pallets, one had bulk items such as shovels, racks, gloves, coolers, and more. Then as if on cue again, the doors flew open and dozens of kids in matching shirts formed an assembly line to unload the trucks. Another team stacked the materials in the church. As the disaster victims, arrived at the church, they were greeted with yet another team that carried the materials to their cars. In some cases, groups followed the resident home and began the process of bailing out water, ripping-out carpet, tearing down drywall and more.

Still back at the church, another team was serving hot meals, delivered by a fourth Red Cross vehicle. Each person was given a hot meal, water, sports drinks and snacks. People also stopped at this point, to sit, to share their story with our trained personnel. You see, part of the healing process is sharing your story. We had licensed mental health professionals ready to listen. We had nurses administering first aid to those with small injuries so it wouldn’t be a larger problem later. We also started ‘client case work’ which is a way to help the resident identify their next steps, determine if they have the resources to recovery, we listened and guided them into recovery.

So I could have a lasting reminder of Tammy, Madisonville and Isaac, I asked if Tammy would record a short message. She obliged. I’ll cherish her kindness, her ability to rally a community, and her sweet hug.

To view additional pictures from Hurricane Isaac click HERE.