'Just in Time:' NW volunteers prepare to help after Irma

About 100 Northwest Red Cross volunteers statewide completed a Red Cross crash course on Saturday as Hurricane Irma approached Florida.

About 20 trainees attended the aid organization’s Seattle location. One of the students was first-time aid volunteer Gayle Starr of Seattle.

She said she saw the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and signed up to volunteer.

“I just figured, that’s going to go on for a while. They need volunteers,” said Starr. “And now that Florida came up, I may switch and ask to go there instead of Texas, but we’ll see.”

These new volunteers could be deploying as early as next week for Irma, as the NW Red Cross has positioned 60 in Florida already and the organization expects at least another 100 will need to deploy.

“It could be a very busy fall,” said volunteer teacher Mary Donovan, who said she’s been with the Red Cross seven years.

She said she was originally inspired to help after Hurricane Katrina, so she volunteered once the Joplin tornado hit.

In addition to explaining the fluidity of the logistics on deployments, Donovan also spoke of the emotional challenges to which volunteers might deal

“It’s hard. It’s hard. You’re meeting a lot of people that this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to them, and they may come into the situation with other issues as well,” she recalled. “I had a client that was a veteran of Afghanistan when I was in Joplin, and I ended up having to get a mental health professional so we could just sit there and hold his hand and that’s all we did. We just sat and held his hands.”

Donovan also reminded volunteers they stay in the same shelter where the displaced evacuees stay.

Starr reiterated she’s ready to aid those going through tough times.

“I’m retired. I’m available. I can help,” she said.

© 2017 KING-TV


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