Illinois Region Volunteers Respond to Hurricane Ida

“You’ve got to get out there and be part of the answer; part of the solution.”

– Illinois Region Red Cross volunteer Tom Hansen

Hurricane Ida has made landfall along the Louisiana coast today already bringing catastrophic wind damage, dangerous tornadoes and storm surge to a region still recovering from last year’s hurricane season.

August 29, 2021. Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Wendy Halsey of the American Red Cross talks with Hermaine Collins-Jordan from Baton Rouge and her family as they settle in at an evacuation center on Sunday August 29, 2021. Hurricane Ida is also hitting Gulf Coast on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, bringing stark reminders of one of the greatest natural disasters to ever strike the United States. Hermaine spoke of her grandfather, who passed away from an infection after venturing out in flood waters to help others in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While remembering his memory, this mother of four stays strong and upbeat for her family as they wait out the storm together. Some 600 Red Cross volunteers are either on the ground or staged to support relief efforts after Ida makes landfall. Across Louisiana and Mississippi, the Red Cross and other organizations have opened dozens of evacuation shelters, offering safe refuge for hundreds of people. The number of open shelters and people staying in them is changing hourly. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

In addition to pre-positioned supplies, the Red Cross has moved truckloads of additional cots, blankets and comfort kits, along with tens of thousands of ready-to-eat meals into Louisiana and Mississippi this weekend.

Around 600 Red Cross volunteers are either on the ground there or staged to support imminent relief efforts from sheltering to feeding. About 60 volunteers from the Illinois region are currently working on a disaster either locally or nationally, with about a dozen volunteers directly responding to Ida.

A Red Cross emergency response vehicle (erv) based in the Illinois River Valley Chapter stands by for deployment to the gulf coast for Hurricane Ida

Volunteers from up and down Illinois are either already in Louisiana or are making their way there this week. Tom Hansen of Deerfield is going on his first deployment with the Red Cross after a lifetime of helping as part of the Navy Reserves. He says he’s looking forward to positively contributing when so many people are facing uncertainty in the storm.

“You’ve got to get out there and be a part of the answer, part of the solution,” he said. “Once I retired from the Navy Reserves, joining the Red Cross to continue helping was just part of a smooth transition. Life is full of adventure, and I appreciate this opportunity.”

Sarge Hughes gets ready to drive the ERV to Louisiana

Early Monday morning, volunteers were rolling the Red Cross ERVs out of the Chicago and Rockford offices. Charles “Sarge” Hughs says this is the best way for him to keep busy after retiring. After a safety inspection of an ERV, Sarge starting driving toward Louisiana with Chicago in the rearview mirror.

Jackie Speciale of Woodstock has been a volunteer since 2012 and has done many deployments, but each disaster is different and presents a different set of obstacles. Jackie says she is always happy to help.

Jackie Speciale getting ready to drive the ERV to Louisiana from Romeoville

COVID-19 has not changed the Red Cross mission. We are helping families in the same way we always have — and ensuring people have a safe place to stay during disasters is a critical part of that support.

How we support sheltering efforts may be diffe rent in each community, depending on local emergency plans and the scale of the disaster.

We plan to open group shelters for people evacuating in the face of tropical storms and have appropriate precautions in place to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID -19.

To help keep everybody safe, everyone in Red Cross emergency shelters is required to wear face coverings.

For those evacuating and looking for the latest open shelter locations near you, call 211, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767) or download the free Red Cross Emergency app.

Interested in joining the Red Cross as a volunteer? Learn more here: https://www.redcross.org/local/illinois/volunteer.html

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