Hurricane Michael: The First Five

As the ability to access areas impacted by the fury of Hurricane Michael grows, the extent of the destruction the storm left behind is becoming more and more apparent. The American Red Cross is on the ground, providing food, shelter, health services and comfort to thousands of people across the region.

As of October 12, there are more than 1,000 Red Cross workers supporting relief efforts for Hurricane Michael with many of them having returned home only days ago after helping with Hurricane Florence. Today, more than 2,400 disaster workers from the Red Cross are still helping to shelter, feed and support people affected by Florence. The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois deployed more than 60 local people to Hurricane Florence, including CEO Celena Roldan.

The first 5 local Red Cross workers are on the ground to help with Hurricane Michael and dozens more from our region will be heading that way as this response continues, but these 5 are among the first wave of people to see the destruction of this massive storm for themselves.

  1. Morrie Bowie, Chicago
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Helping with distribution in Puerto Rico 2017

Morrie was already on deployment in North Carolina for Hurricane Florence when Michael formed so instead of coming home after helping for nearly a month, Morrie was redirected to Florida. A retired Chicago firefighter, Morrie is the type of person you want to have around during a disaster. He has experience with sheltering, supplies distribution and disaster assessment but also brings a level of calmness with him on deployment. Morrie became a volunteer last year during hurricane season and deployed to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He also helps with fire responses and the other lines of Red Cross service since becoming a volunteer.

“I had no idea the scope of the Red Cross and how much we do: working with veterans, installing smoke alarms, teaching kids about fire safety and organizing with the community for emergency preparedness…I’m right where I belong,” Morrie said.

2. Juan Salgado, Chicago

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After stepping off the plane in Florida 2018

Juan has been a volunteer with the Red Cross for less than 1 year and has previously helped with flooding in Illinois last March and other disaster responses. Juan arrive in Florida this week and immediately was thrust into helping plan and set up shelters and evacuation centers. Red Cross volunteers are always looking out for the safety of each other and of the people we serve and Juan is helping make sure people who can’t go home have a place to go.

3. Brian Nestler, Roselle

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Assisting with smoke alarm installations in April 2018

Brian is the Regional Preparedness Manager for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. He holds a master’s degree in Homeland Security from American Military University and played a major role in coordinating “Sound the Alarm,” the Red Cross initiative to install thousands of free smoke alarms across the country to reduce home fire deaths. Brian had just recently returned to Illinois after being deployed to Hurricane Florence when he was deployed to Hurricane Michael. He previously was a member of the AmeriCorps team and has responded to hundreds of home fires across the region.

4. Marty Knight, Momence

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On deployment in North Carolina in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) 2018

Marty has been a Red Cross volunteer for nearly 10 years and has also helped out with past disasters including Hurricane Sandy, the Flint water crisis, flooding in Mississippi in 2016, and most recently he was in New Bern, North Carolina for Hurricane Florence.

Marty is also an active member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team responding to many local fires across northern Illinois. He also volunteers as a Services to the Armed Forces lead for the Manteno Veterans Home and Prince Home.

5. Jim Connelly, Lincolnwood

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Before deploying to Texas for Hurricane Harvey, 2017

Jim has been a Red Cross volunteer for over 50 years and has deployed dozens of times. He is a very versatile volunteer and regularly helps with sheltering and logistics.  Prior to Hurricane Michael, Jim deployed for Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Matthew, the Louisiana Floods, Colorado flooding in 2013, Colorado wildfires and more.

It is because of dedicated volunteers like these that the Red Cross can continue to carry out the mission of alleviating human suffering in the face of disasters. The workforce of the Red Cross is made of up 95% volunteers; people who often put their own lives on hold to go and help others. We thank you for giving us your time and talents.

Interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer? Click here to take a look at available volunteer positions. Thank you for supporting the American Red Cross.

HOW YOU CAN HELP This is the second massive hurricane response in the United States in less than a month. Thousands of people are looking to the Red Cross for help, and the organization depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Michael by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters.

The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Michael relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS.

BLOOD DONORS NEEDED NOW To meet patient needs, the Red Cross asks eligible individuals unaffected by Hurricane Michael to give blood. The storm has forced the cancellation of dozens of blood drives, causing nearly a thousand units of blood to go uncollected in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. More blood drive cancellations are possible and low donor turnout is expected in the Southeast over the coming days as communities’ recover from the storm.

Before the storm, the Red Cross already had a critical need for blood and platelet donations following Hurricane Florence. Appointments can be made by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:

The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 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 us at redcross.org/il/chicago or visit us on Twitter @ChicagoRedCross.

Written by Regional Communications Manager Holly Baker

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