More than 60 volunteers from Augusta and surrounding areas will deploy to parts of Louisiana and Texas to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey as the threatening storm continues to move through the South.
The Red Cross office in Augusta sent up to 10 volunteers to assist with disaster relief in the affected areas prior to the storm.
Susan Everitt, the executive director for the American Red Cross of Augusta, said that an additional 10 volunteers are ready to deploy once the storm subsides, and up to 20 volunteers are interested in training for deployment and helping with administrative duties.
Once trained, Everitt said the additional volunteers will first serve in Louisiana and then on toward Texas, providing comfort and care to those within 34 Red Cross and community shelters.
“A lot volunteers were pre-deployed in advance of the storm, mostly volunteers that were in Texas so they were already at the shelters and already ready to accept people,” she said. “So now we are waiting for it to clear up a little bit so we can safely send in more volunteers.”
Susan Jernigan, a volunteer for several years and local Red Cross board member, will join the next team of volunteers who will deploy to the area in coming weeks.
Jernigan joined with the Red Cross after selling her First General Service construction company two years ago.
Jernigan said her first assignment with the organization came after Hurricane Matthew, during which she took a couple into her home after their house had been destoyed.
“I’ve seen disaster kind of on the other side of helping some through the insurance process that has a claim so originally I became a volunteer because people that do not have insurance of course I couldn’t help,” she said. “So I started just monetarily when I had a company, and since I didn’t have a company any longer that allowed me to retire and volunteer on a different level.”
Gold Cross EMS has also been requested by FEMA to prepare a “highly trained” strike team to deploy to Texas to assist with rescue efforts, said Steven Vincent, the chief operating officer for Gold Cross EMS.
The emergency management team will send two ambulances and one first responder vehicle — along with nine EMTS and paramedics — to help with rescue efforts, Vincent said.
They are expected to deploy within seven to 10 days.
“This team is highly trained and certified in incident command, management and response,” Vincent said.
The Aiken office of the Red Cross has sent five volunteers and an emergency response vehicle to Texas to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Red Cross offices across South Carolina have sent about 50 volunteers, said John Madrid, disaster program manager for the Aiken office.
More are needed, Madrid said, and no special skills or training are required.
“Everybody can help in one way or the other, you don’t have to be a technical expert,” he said. “We’ve sent shelter workers, workers to help feed people, people who can act as liasons with local government.”
The emergency response vehicle is used to get food, water and supplies from one point to another.
“If we have people in shelters, we need to be able to provide them food. Sometimes the food is prepared at restaurant or central kitchen and we use the vehicle to distribute it,” Madrid said. It could also be used to distribute drinking water and cleanup kits.
Right now, the best thing Augusta area people can do is donate money to the national Red Cross, Madrid said. His office isn’t equipped to handle donations of food, water or other goods. But the national office can see that money goes where it’s needed most.
“Lots of people want to donate goods, but we don’t really have mechanism to receive them and get them where they need to go,” Madrid said. “The best thing to do is financial. The Red Cross can make sure it gets to where needs to go and is being used for what’s best.”
The Aiken office covers the counties of Aiken, Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale, Edgefield and Orangeburg.
Here are other efforts to help hurricane survivors:
• Walking Tall, a ministry known locally for providing haircuts to the homeless, will be gathering supplies such as bottled water, bleach, hand sanitizer, ready-to-eat food, diapers, wipes, candles and matches and taking them to Corpus Christi on Friday. The charity is asking for donations of money to pay for fuel. Its drop-off location is Just Julie’s, 951 Pine Log Road (behind KFC). Supplies will be collected from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. through Thursday. For more information, visit Walking Tall’s Facebook page or walkingtall.life.
• The Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center is holding a clothing drive. Donations are being collected at the hotel’s front door at 10th street and will coordinate efforts with the Salvation Army. The drive will end Friday, Sept. 8.
• Abilene Baptist Church is currently collecting monetary donations, which will be forwarded to the Georgia Baptist Convention to aide those affected by the storm. Donations can be made via the church’s website at myabilene.org/give and select “Disaster Relief.” Those wishing to deploy to affected areas or volunteer in other ways can also contact the office at (706) 869-1774 in coming weeks.
• Kroger is asking its customers to give money to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey by rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar, or making a cash donation, when they visit their local Kroger. Customers’ donations will assist the American Red Cross in providing aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey. Donations will be collected until Sunday, Sept. 3.