It has been a few months since Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm in early October.
The deadly storm was considered one of the top four strongest hurricanes to hit the United States and it left behind devastation across communities.
People completely lost their homes and many were left living without power, food, running water and other basic necessities.
Soon after Hurricane Michael hit, American Red Cross disaster workers got to work to help people in shelters, kitchens, and many distributed relief items to those in need.
Isamar Montezuma, Senior Recruitment Specialist for the American Red Cross, was one of hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers deployed to help those impacted by the deadly storm.
Montezuma was deployed to District 1, Panama City in Florida. She traveled to different shelters and kitchens in Washington County and Day County.
“It’s been very impactful to see damage created by Hurricane Michael, but I’ve been really impressed by volunteers and community members,” Montezuma said.
Throughout her deployment, Montezuma went to different shelters to identify and find volunteers locally. She also helped with background check screenings for volunteers willing to assist.
Montezuma also volunteered for three different kitchens while deployed in Florida.
According to Montezuma, everyone in District 1, Panama City was working hard to rebuild and empower their community.
Even though people completely lost their homes and everything in them, they were grateful for their safety.
“The fact that I’ve had someone tell me that even though they lost everything, at the end of the day they are thankful they have their family,” Montezuma said. “These families will go back home, but they’ve lost it and lost memories, but the most important thing is that they are together.”
American Red Cross volunteers respond to nearly 64,000 disasters every year. Deployment is something American Red Cross volunteers do to reach disaster-affected areas like Hurricane Michael.
This was Montezuma’s first deployment to respond to a disaster and it was an eye-opening experience.
“I wanted to be deployed,” Montezuma said. “It’s something that we do to assist during a disaster. I wanted to get that experience to learn from it and to be able to speak about it to other volunteers.”
Interested in being a disaster volunteer? Head over to the site to look at the different volunteer positions under Volunteer Management, Disaster Services, Public Affairs and more!
Written by Jasminne Hernandez, Communications & Marketing Volunteer for the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois