Local Red Cross volunteer helps with Harvey
The Red Cross Greater Chesapeake Region is sending more volunteers to help with local disaster relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana as Hurricane Harvey sets a record in bringing more than 50 inches of rain in certain areas of the region, along with devastating flooding.
As of Wednesday, 115 volunteers have been sent on a two-week deployment to Texas and Louisiana, said Jason Marshall, the organization’s Southern Maryland director. More volunteers, including himself, are still standing by, waiting for deployment.
Gloria Della of is one of the many volunteers dispatched to Texas. Della, a legislative analyst living in Calvert, grew up about 30 minutes outside of New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the area 12 years ago, she volunteered with Red Cross for four weeks.
“[Hurricane] Katrina was probably more devastating,” Della said Tuesday. But “for individuals, it’s [nevertheless] very personal and devastating.”
Originally planning to go to Houston on Friday, Della ended up in La Grange, Texas, a small town with a population of about 4,700 between Austin and Houston. Like many places in Texas, La Grange was heavily flooded by the rain, which also caused the nearby Colorado River to overflow, exacerbating the situation.
When it rained, Della said “it was like a sheet of water with the wind pushing it.”
During her time at La Grange, she worked at a makeshift shelter in a community center of a local church as a shelter manager. Her shelter hosted a flow of residents who came and left, ranging from 40 to 70 people depending on the time and day. Her job was mainly to “do whatever you do to get people what they need,” she said. On Tuesday, Della said the rain stopped and the sun came out. Some people left to check damage at home.
While she was there, Della said she saw “strange things” like a horse being rescued and families on their way to Dallas with their entire possessions.
“These people had packed up everything they had,” only to end up being stuck, she said.
One of the shelter seekers who came along her family was a girl named Anne. Della estimated her to be about 5 years old and she was helping Della to maintain control of the children and organizing activities in the shelter.
“A shelter is like a small, cosmopolitan environment,” Della said, noting people offer their skills to meet the needs in the moment.
While she was in La Grange, Della slept in a cot in the shelter. Each cot had about 20 feet of space between them. “It’s like being in a big basket- ball court where you are sleeping over, except that people are thinking about what are they going to do when they leave here,” she said.
For her, Della said there’s nothing like the feeling of helping others, to offer not only temporary, physical relief, but also emotional support, during the worst days of their life.
Other than volunteers, Marshall said the regional chapter also sent three emergency response vehicles to Texas loaded with trained volunteers, food and other supplies, functioning like mobile food trucks. While some volunteers are on deployment, Marshall said the local chapters could use some help filling local needs.
Other than responding to natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Red Cross offers emergency hotel stays, food and clothing for those who are displaced as a result of natural or man-made disasters such as floods, house fires, hazardous material spills and car accidents. For those interested in volunteering locally, Marshall suggests people contact the Southern Maryland Chapter’s volunteer specialist, Gloria Coliton, at 410-624-2013 or gloria.coliton@redcross. org. People can also help those affected by Hurricane Harvey by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or texting HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.