(SAIPAN) – With less than 48 hours notice, Red Cross volunteer Lee Gramas, of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, was on a plane from Chicago to Sapian to join disaster relief efforts halfway around the world. The island of 50,000 people in the western Pacific Ocean was hit hard by powerful Typhoon Soudelor, which caused electrical outages and sewage back up, displacing hundreds and leaving thousands more with no food.
The work that Gramas has helped out with has varied each day. On one day he helped procure more than 4,000
cans of tuna and Spam, as well as pallets of rice, noodles and toilet paper. The next day he helped with casework, giving direct assistance to the impacted population, while standing up a call center to answer the pleas for help.
“Our commitment is to provide relief to the impacted population,” said Gramas. “To be able to deploy half way around the world is an incredible honor and perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a disaster that would not occur in the continental United States.”
Volunteering with the Red Cross for five years when he’s not running his own construction business, Gramas has been deployed to aid in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac and the Colorado Floods of 2013, in addition to responding to many local fires and tornadoes.
“Being a volunteer for the American Red Cross is not only a privilege, but a humbling experience to work among an incredible cadre of intelligent giving people,” said Gramas.
HOW TO HELP People can help by donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations to Disaster Relief will be used to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. We respond to nearly 70,000 other disasters every year, from home fires to hurricanes, typhoons and more. Learn more about how Disaster Relief donations have helped people affected by previous disasters including home fires.
Story by Tyler Beischke, Public Affairs Volunteer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois