AFTER THE STORM:

Port wo­man aids hur­ri­cane vic­tims

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By MAR­CUS DIETERLE mdi­eterle@ce­cil­whig.com

PORT DE­POSIT — After storms like Hur­ri­cane Florence sweep through com­mu­ni­ties and leave flooded homes and dis­placed fam­i­lies in their wake, peo­ple like Rose­marie O’Brien are there to help pick up the pieces.

O’Brien, a vol­un­teer with the Amer­i­can Red Cross from Port De­posit, boarded a plane to North Carolina at the end of Septem­ber to help peo­ple find a lit­tle hope in the af­ter­math of the storm.

“When Florence hit, I just knew I needed to go to help out,” she said.

O’Brien is a re­tired teacher, hav­ing taught for 32 years at the Uni­ver­sity of Port­land in Ore­gon, Los An­ge­les schools, San Diego schools, and even home­school­ing her own grand­chil­dren be­fore they en­tered the pub­lic school sys­tem.

Be­fore Florence, O’Brien was de­ployed to Texas to help peo­ple re­cover from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey in 2017.

As a mem­ber of the Red Cross for the past two years, O’Brien spe­cial­izes in mass care and shel­ter­ing, and has re­ceived train­ing in a va­ri­ety of other ar­eas.

O’Brien said she would be help­ing peo­ple re­ceive the re­sources they need while be­ing shel­tered.

“I will be work­ing in the shel­ter, mak­ing sure peo­ple have sleep­ing ar­range­ments, com­fort kits, pil­lows and blan­kets, things like that,” she said.

The shel­ter also pro­vides other re­sources such as break­fast, lunch, din­ner and 24-hour snacks to make sure peo­ple are able to eat; med­i­cal as­sis­tance for any­one who sus­tained in­juries dur­ing the dis­as­ter or who has an on­go­ing med­i­cal con­di­tion; and spir­i­tual care, ac­cord­ing to O’Brien.

“We take care of all of that,” she said. The Red Cross runs the Pil­low­case Project, which re­cently part­nered with Dis­ney and ed­u­cates chil­dren about what to pack in case of emer­gen­cies rang­ing from hur­ri­canes, earth­quakes, fires, se­vere win­ter storms and other dis­as­ters.

“We have char­ac­ter pil­low­cases that we give to the stu­dents along with the work­book, and then they can put in in­for­ma­tion or items that they would need to take with them if they had to evac­u­ate,” O’Brien said.

The Pil­low­case Project is ac­tu­ally what got O’Brien in­volved with the Red Cross.

“I started do­ing pil­low­case projects in the el­e­men­tary schools and par­tic­i­pat­ing in ‘Sound the Alarm,’ where we find out if peo­ple need smoke de­tec­tors in their homes and then we, along with the fire de­part­ment, go into homes to put up smoke alarms for peo­ple for free,” she said.

O’Brien is also a mem­ber of Delta Sigma Theta, the largest black soror­ity in the world with over 200,000 mem­bers, where she is the chair of the emer­gency re­sponse team for the soror­ity in Har­ford and Ce­cil coun­ties and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the soror­ity in the Eastern Re­gion. The soror­ity has also part­nered with FEMA and the Red Cross to fur­ther achieve its mis­sion of pub­lic ser­vice.

Although O’Brien is one of the sorors who trav­eled to North Carolina to as­sist with the relief ef­forts, she said there are many oth­ers who are in­grained in the com­mu­ni­ties they are aid­ing.

“We train our mem­bers so that when a dis­as­ter hap­pens, they’re right there and they know the com­mu­nity to be able to help out,” she said.

While many peo­ple would love to travel hun­dreds of miles to help peo­ple whose lives have been rocked by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, O’Brien ac­knowl­edged that not ev­ery­one has the abil­ity to do so. But she said those kind souls don’t have to fly all the way to North Carolina to lend a help­ing hand.

“They don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to go to an­other state,” she said. “There are lots of things they can do right in their own city and com­mu­nity.”

Some of those things could in­clude par­tic­i­pat­ing in telethons to ask for do­na­tions and run­ning in­for­ma­tion ta­bles to ed­u­cate peo­ple about how to pre­pare for emer­gen­cies well be­fore dis­as­ters strike.

O’Brien said she wants peo­ple to re­al­ize that the Red Cross is run by vol­un­teers, and that ev­ery­day ci­ti­zens can get in­volved with the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Peo­ple train for the var­i­ous po­si­tions, and there are a lot of ways that peo­ple can vol­un­teer for the Red Cross so that when an emer­gency hap­pens, they can ful­fill the need,” she said.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ROSE­MARIE O’BRIEN

Amer­i­can Red Cross vol­un­teer Rose­marie O’Brien pets a ther­apy dog’s paw dur­ing her 2017 de­ploy­ment to Texas for the Hur­ri­cane Har­vey relief ef­forts.

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