08/31/05 — Volunteers, workers on way to help families battle back

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Volunteers, workers on way to help families battle back

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 31, 2005 1:46 PM

Wayne County people have always been willing to help their neighbors -- even when those neighbors are a thousand miles away.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is one of many across the state asked by national Red Cross officials to send emergency teams to the Gulf Coast, where Hurricane Katrina has devastated thousands of square miles.

"We're sending any of our trained volunteers who are available," said Teresa Williams, disaster services director for the Wayne County chapter.

Volunteers are being sent to Montgomery, Ala., which is serving as the staging area for Red Cross efforts in the region. From there, they will be sent to other areas that have been affected by the hurricane, said Williams.

Local volunteer Dora Perry was sent to Houston, Texas, on Tuesday morning to help evacuees from Louisiana who took refuge there, providing them with food and shelter.

Sara Francis of Mount Olive and Helen Miller of Jacksonville took the chapter's emergency response vehicle to the disaster area Sunday morning.

Jo Peterson went to Montgomery. More local volunteers are on standby to go when they are available.

Mrs. Williams said volunteers are being told to take sleeping bags and sheets with them because there are no rooms for them to stay in. "It's going to be really tough on volunteers going down there. So people who are going need to be in real good health. We don't want to send volunteers and compromise their health."

Wayne Chapter Director Chuck Waller said it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help communities that have been wrecked by the storm.

"The Red Cross has already said this will be its largest response effort for a single disaster on American soil," Waller said. "It's going to take an extraordinary effort in resources, people and dollars. It costs to help people get back on their feet."

The Red Cross is preparing to serve 500,000 hot meals a day to disaster victims.

The Wayne chapter is accepting donations to help hurricane victims. People who want to donate may either go online at www.redcross.org or mail or take a check to the local chapter and designate it for national disaster relief. They may also call the Red Cross at 1-800-HELP-NOW.

One of United Way of Wayne County's volunteers, Cheryl McAlphin, left Saturday for the disaster area under the Uniform Services Act. She is employed at 3HC in Goldsboro and is part of a Federal Emergency Management Association disaster relief team.

United Way of America has established a United Way Hurricane Katrina Response Rund through which people can make monetary donations to help the disaster victims. To donate, go to the United Way website at https://volunteer.united-e-way.org/hurricane-katrina/donate/. Or you can send a check to United Way of America, P.O. Box 630568, Baltimore, Md., 21263-0568. Make checks payable to United Way of America and in the memo line, put Hurricane Katrina Response Fund.

Another local team on standby to go to the hurricane-hit areas is the Arr Mac Water Response Team made up of people from Arrington and Mar Mac fire departments and divers and dog teams from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Bill Harrell, chief of the Mar Mac Fire Department, said the team has a total of about 30 members, divers and dog handlers.

The team is currently on standby, awaiting a call. If they are called, the team is prepared to stay for at least a week, Harrell said. Not all of the team would go at once, he said. Some will go at first then if needed longer, other team members will relieve them.

"Now is what they'll need are our boats and divers along with a few of the canine dogs that are cadaver dogs," Harrell said. "That's bad to say but the 80 estimated deaths, that's not going to come close to what they're going to run into in the next three, four or five days.

"So we'll go down and do some search and recovery. It won't be no rescue. The divers will wind up having to get into the water to help get the bodies out."

"We have to be self-sufficient for 72 hours," Harrell said. "We have to carry food, what we're going to sleep on, everything. We will set up tents and some of the team will sleep in them and others will sleep in the trailer on cots."

Progress Energy officials said electrical repair crews from across the Carolinas are already en route to the Gulf states. Dana Yeganian, a spokesman for the company, said 500 company workers are headed for Louisiana, where a staging area has been set up just north of New Orleans. She said another 400 workers from the company's Florida affiliate are also en route. A Wayne County team of about seven people left Monday and planned to stop over in Asheville, to help restore power there, she said. Western North Carolina also suffered power outages related to the storm.

"We certainly are glad to be able to help because we've been the recipient of so much help in the past," Yeganian said, referring to out-of-state electric crews who helped restore power in eastern North Carolina when hurricanes struck here in recent years.