Virginians answer the call as Red Cross deploys efforts toward storm and wildfire relief

American Red Cross

As states along the Gulf Coast prepare for Tropical Storms Laura and Marco, volunteers from the Commonwealth are headed to the region to help the American Red Cross.

Nineteen Virginians are spread out among Louisiana and Texas including A.J. Cook. He’s one of four volunteers from Southwest Virginia who is already on the ground in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is ready to provide relief once the storms pass.

“I’ve done this probably over 30 times in the past five years, going to different disasters,” Cook said. “For me, it’s one of the most profound experiences. To be able to donate my time and my energy to people who need the assistance, it’s a very heartfelt feeling that you get from volunteering with the American Red Cross.”

But the Floyd, Virginia-native says the coronavirus is complicating those efforts.

“Before COVID19, we would do congregate shelters. Now if we do congregate shelters, we have to have screening areas where we screen all the clients before they enter the shelter,” Cook said. “We do client screenings daily to make sure there’s not a virus outbreak while they’re in the shelter and if anyone exhibits symptoms of COVID, we put them in an isolation unit immediately to protect the rest of our clients.”

More volunteers from Virginia are also assisting with providing relief from the wildfires in California. Jonathan McNamara, communications director for Red Cross Virginia, says a total of 25 individuals from the Commonwealth have been sent to deal with the current situations happening out west and in the Gulf Coast.

“When these volunteers get on a flight to travel across the country, they’re planning to do so for up to 21 days,” McNamara said. “That really speaks to their willingness to leave their families behind. They’re putting themselves in challenging situations because they have a passion for service.”

As the peak of hurricane season approaches, McNamara says there’s a constant need for volunteers.

“We’re going to have to have additional volunteers ready because the volunteers who are already on the ground, their work won’t stop.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, how to donate blood or make financial contributions, visit RedCross.org.

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