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They are the ones who head into the danger zone before the storm hits.

They are the ones who face the fires. They take the phone calls for help in the middle of the night. They are the ones who hand out meals, cleaning kits and other vital supplies in the aftermath of the storms in life across the globe. They are the American Red Cross, and the majority of the heroes are volunteers.

Deployment

The Red Cross Tennessee River Chapter is filled with such volunteers. On Aug. 25, Red Cross volunteers started deploying to Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Laura. The word “deployment” isn’t a new term in a military community like Clarksville or Fort Campbell. It is typically thought of as the movement of troops or equipment to a position or place for military action. It could also be used in this case considering the maneuvering of people, equipment and supplies for disaster-relief efforts.

Local Red Crosser Joyce Work was among the first to deploy to Louisiana. She began working with others in the area to prepare before the storm made landfall and for what was to come after Hurricane Laura devastated areas of Louisiana and Texas. She is a sheltering manager and arranges lodging for displaced people.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges, but thanks to modern technology, some volunteers were able to do their parts remotely.

Retired Navy veteran Marvin Williams serves as the transportation manager for more than 500 emergency response vehicles. His job is to coordinate services like scheduling and routing ERVs for relief efforts.

Feeding manager Charles Thomas also set up a remote operation, doing what he does best, which is getting organizations and restaurants to donate food needed for all those in need in these situations.

Boots on the ground volunteers include Stephainnie White who serves as a feeding manager. James Cauthen is the fleet manager for the Clarksville office. He is in charge of six vehicles, including one ERV. He and Garry Hillis, a feeding worker, drove an ERV to Louisiana. They usually drive the ERV around handing out meals and supplies. Red Crosser Joey Monroe is doing disaster assessments, evaluating damaged homes and other structures.

An unexpected helper

One other volunteer stepped forward to help the Tennessee River Chapter with the much-needed resource of funding. Local chef and owner of Nicoletta’s Catering, Nicholas Nicoletta, is already known for his generous spirit in the community. Nicoletta offered to match any funds donated through his Facebook page or at rdcrss.org/nicolettascatering.

Modern-day disaster relief

Many are familiar with scenes of natural disaster victims housed together, sleeping on cots in churches and school gyms. Displaced people are housed in hotels instead of large, open spaces like they used to be to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families are assigned caseworkers, who do regular welfare check-ins. The American Red Cross and their partners provide for physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health care. They take care of even the smallest things others might not think of like prescription medications, eyeglasses and medical equipment like CPAP machines. They help victims navigate their way back to some sense of normalcy.

Hurricane Laura: The long road to recovery

Most storms weaken before they make landfall, but like predecessors Harvey and Michael, Hurricane Laura continued to strengthen. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall Aug. 27 at 2 a.m. with winds hammering everything in its path at sustained speeds up to 150 mph. To make matters worse, the National Hurricane Center forecasted the storm surge would be “unsurvivable.”

At last count, 7,200 homes were destroyed or had major damage. More than 100,000 people remain without power, and some are expected be for weeks to come. The Red Cross and their partners provided shelter for more than 20,000 people. They provided more than 750,000 meals and more than 160,000 cleaning supplies and relief items.

The American Red Cross has done the thankless work for more than a century.

More than blood donations

The employees, supporters and volunteers of today’s American Red Cross provide care in five main areas. They provide relief for people affected by disasters in America. They coordinate blood collection, processing and distribution. They provide health and safety education and training such as CPR certification. They provide support for military members and their families. Lastly, they provide international relief and development.

To learn more, volunteer or donate to the Red Cross, visit redcross.org or call 800-RED-CROSS. In Clarksville, contact Pamela Holz, executive director of the American Red Cross Tennessee River Chapter, at 1760 Madison St. near Chik-fil-A or call 931-645-6401.

To donate to Hurricane Laura relief efforts, don’t forget Nicoletta’s Catering will match any donation through their Facebook page or at rdcrss.org/nicolettascatering. Donors can also text LAURA to 90999 to donate $10. The $10 amount will automatically be added to the donor’s phone bill.

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