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.

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.