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

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.

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.”

Massive Red Cross Response to Isaac Underway Along Gulf Coast Public’s Help Needed For Costly Relief Operation

The American Red Cross has a massive relief response underway along the Gulf Coast where Isaac’s strong winds and relentless rain are continuing to leave flooded homes and thousands of evacuees in its wake.

Overnight more than 4,700 people stayed in as many as 80 Red Cross or community shelters in seven states. More people may need shelter today as evacuations continue. In addition to staffing shelters, the more than 3,000 Red Cross disaster workers have already served more than 22,000 meals and snacks.

“We need the public’s help,” reported Charley Shimanski, senior vice president for Red Cross Disaster Services. “We expect to be in the Gulf Coast region for weeks helping people recover from Isaac, even as we are still helping people out west affected by wildfires. It’s been a busy summer and our costs are growing by the hour. People can help by donating today.”

People can click or text to donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

MORE HELP ON THE WAY While focusing on providing emergency sheltering and feeding, the Red Cross is also starting to move more volunteers, equipment and relief supplies into communities as the storm exits.

“Before the storm struck, we put workers, equipment, vehicles and trailers full of supplies just outside the impact area,” Shimanski said. “As the storm moves out of some communities, we’re starting to move assistance in and we’ll be providing people with food, water and relief supplies in the days ahead.”

The Red Cross sent 311,000 ready-to-eat meals to the area, and the Southern Baptist Convention has mobile kitchens capable of producing thousands of meals a day prepositioned to serve cooked meals when it is safe to do so. Other community partners assisting along the Gulf include AmeriCorps, Islamic Relief USA, NAACP and the National Baptist Convention USA, helping with things like sheltering, feeding, driving disaster vehicles and logistics.

STAYING SAFE People along the Gulf Coast should follow instructions from officials on when to evacuate and when it’s safe to return home. They can let loved ones know they are safe by either downloading the Red Cross Hurricane App and using the “I’m Safe” button to post a message to their social media accounts, or registering on the Red Cross Safe and Well website.

 The hurricane app can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. It also provides important safety information and a toolkit with a flashlight, strobe light and alarm. The Safe and Well website is secure and people can register by visiting  www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.

 

American Red Cross Opening Shelters in Florida as Isaac Moves North

People in Other Gulf Coast States Urged to Prepare for Storm

KEY WEST, Fl. — August 26, 2012 — A man braves 50 mile-per-hour winds as the significant storm Isaac approaches the coast of Key West. (Photo Credit: American Red Cross, James Williams)

WASHINGTON, August 26, 2012 —As Tropical Storm Isaac marches north, the American Red Cross opened shelters in Florida today and is prepared for widespread flooding and sheltering a large number of people throughout the state.

“The Red Cross is helping people in Florida who are being affected by the storm, and we urge those throughout the state and the Gulf Coast region who are in Isaac’s projected path to take preparedness steps now,” said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of disaster services.  “The Red Cross is preparing for what could be a large disaster response across multiple states over the next several weeks.”

The Red Cross has deployed more than 1,000 disaster workers throughout Florida and has materials and supplies positioned for use, including pre-stocking 30,000 ready-to-eat meals in Florida and two mobile kitchens sent to the state.

With Isaac’s effects already being felt in parts of the state, people in Florida should stay informed on the storm’s progress from the National Weather Service. As the storm approaches, people should be prepared to evacuate if directed to do so by authorities.

As of noon, the Red Cross has nearly 20 shelters already open in Florida and is poised to open more as necessary. If someone needs to find a Red Cross shelter, they can download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), or check their local television, radio and newspaper.

It’s also important to stay in touch with family and friends, and the Red Cross Safe and Well website is a secure and easy-to-use online tool that helps families connect during emergencies. To register, visit http://www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). This site also connects with the Twitter and Facebook accounts of users.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross also is mobilizing disaster workers, emergency vehicles, mobile kitchens and relief supplies to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi as Isaac is expected to move into that area in the next few days. The Red Cross is urging residents in areas that could be affected by the storm to be preparing now.

Isaac is expected to cause serious flooding throughout the region, and people can donate by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at blog.redcross.org.