Local Red Cross volunteers head to Florida for Hurricane Ian relief
"The devastation, it kind of boggles your mind"
SPOKANE, Wash. — “The devastation, it kind of boggles your mind, on how high that water actually gets,” said Debbie Lutskas, a Moses Lake Red Cross volunteer.
Lutskas has been in Florida since 3:00 a.m. on Thursday. She’s the first of a few Red Cross volunteers from the Inland Northwest helping with the response to Ian and seeing the devastation firsthand.
“There’s going to be a very high number of total (homes) destroyed. Mostly to the south of us because everything was underwater all the way up to the rooftops, so we’re gonna have a lot of long-term clients that we’re gonna have to be helping,” Lutskas said.
She’s helping out with a Red Cross shelter where those affected by the devastation of Ian can go for meals, medical help, and other services.
The Red Cross says their volunteers are trained in all different ways to respond to disasters.
“When a disaster this big hits the local area just doesn’t have the resources to manage the response and so volunteers from all over the country will be sent to that area to help with the response. Some of those folks will be coming from our 15 county chapter,” said Ryan Rodin, Executive Director of the Red Cross of the Greater Inland Northwest.
This isn’t the first natural disaster Lutskas has been deployed to in her six years with the Red Cross. She says she volunteers her time to make it easier on those affected by the devastation, anyway she can.
“Just to help, I mean they just had their whole lives upended or swept away and they just need a helping hand. Whatever I can do to make that a little easier for them I’m willing to do it,” Lutskas said.
Even if that means missing the holidays.
“We’re gonna be there a number of months, given the devastation, of the flooding it’s a really sad situation and Red Cross, we’re there to help those communities respond and fill the needs as best we can, either in couple weeks or a number of months,” Rodin said.
“Well, my husband is hoping I’ll be home before Christmas but I’m not gonna bet on it,” said Lutskas.
The Red Cross has been overwhelmed with people calling to get involved with relief efforts. Rodin said they’ve been getting calls from others in the Inland Northwest wanting to dedicate their time to volunteer.
“The best first step for folks that are interested would be to go to Red Cross.org and sign up on our volunteer page there, but it takes a little bit and so it’s doubtful that if you signed up today you would actually get to go to Florida,” said Rodin.
Rodin says volunteers are needed, but not everyone who signs up will go to Florida to help with Hurricane Ian relief. You can volunteer for Red Cross here.
He added that these disasters happen frequently, so there will be other opportunities for those looking to get involved.
“Unfortunately, these disasters happen all the time. All over the country. And we also have different needs here locally whether it’s big fire response, we also respond to home fires and different things like that, so a whole host of volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in getting involved.,” Rodin said.
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