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County volunteers deploy to clean up after Harvey

by on September 07, 2017 9:58 AM

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s extraordinary rainfall and devastation to millions of residents in Texas, Centre County Red Cross volunteers are making their way down to the afflicted areas to help in the recovery.

The attention will die out after a few weeks, but the Red Cross is going to be there for years, said Kimberly Maiolo, Central Pennsylvania Region director of communications.

One Centre County and one Perry County resident are driving to Baton Rouge in an emergency vehicle to help the relief efforts. Ken Horting and Dave Baran of the Mid-Central Pennsylvania Red Cross chapter are helping on the ground when they arrive, Maiolo said. The Red Cross volunteer deployment is for two-weeks.

“The magnitude of this disaster is unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Maiolo said. “We’re not talking weeks or months. This is going to take years.”

Twenty-nine volunteers total from central Pennsylvania are in the affected areas to help assist the more than 35,000 people staying in shelters, Maiolo said. Most are helping with mass care, which assists people who have had to flee their homes for shelter.

She said the volunteers have to fly or drive into surrounding areas and are still having trouble getting into certain parts of Texas because of flooding.

“The biggest challenge is getting in,” she said. “You can never fully prepare for a disaster this big, so we’re working around the clock because there’s a lot of people to feed and take care of.”

The last major hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Hurricane Wilma, 12 years ago in Florida. According to AccuWeather, a major hurricane is Category 3 or higher. Harvey topped out Sept. 1 as a Category 4, affecting millions of people across the Gulf Coast and causing millions of dollars of damage.

The best way to help the Red Cross’ efforts is to donate money, Maiolo said. While food donations and clothing are good, she said with money donations the Red Cross can purchase the items in the area they’re needed and cut down transportation time. Donating their time is another top priority for the organization, she added. Volunteers can sign up at redcross.com.

A new way of volunteering that the 21st century has enabled is virtual volunteers. Maiolo said some volunteers are helping with organizational and management responsibilities from a distance. With the difficulties of getting into the areas that need help, being able to deploy virtually has been a big help, she added.

“The situation is horrible on the ground.”

Volunteers like Horting, Baran and the 20-something other volunteers from the region who have deployed aren’t leaving until they make it better, she said.

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