Local Red Cross Volunteers Head South To Help
WILKES-BARRE — American Red Cross volunteers packed up supplies Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre and prepared to travel south in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.
The hurricane is on track to strike the coast of the Carolinas on Thursday and it could bring devastating wind, rain and floods.
Red Cross volunteer Purity Mwangi, 33, who moved to Wilkes-Barre from Kenya two years ago, said this is the first time she’s being deployed to assist with a hurricane.
“Overnight, I kept reading about hurricanes,” Mwangi said. “We don’t get hurricanes in Africa so I wanted to understand what it’s all about.”
Mwangi started volunteering for the Red Cross shortly after moving to the area. She said she wants to help people in need.
“Going to North Carolina is a new experience,” Mwangi said.
“I’m surprised that you could come from a place where you feel like you are underprivileged and come here and still do so much. I feel good about it,” she added.
She and Lynn Muchler-Stash of Edwardsville prepared to fly out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport Tuesday into Greenville, North Carolina. They will bring relief food, supplies and equipment and staff evacuation shelters that open as the storm approaches.
“I notice when you go out there and help someone, they tell you they are grateful,” Mwangi said. “I came from Africa to here and people here are grateful. I don’t even have words to describe the feeling.”
Jeff Banks, direct services manager for American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region, packed up Tuesday to head into Columbia, South Carolina. He said this is the fourth time he will assist in that area.
He will join volunteers from all over the U.S. and teams of Red Cross disaster workers who are heading to various locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and all along the coastline to assist ahead of the hurricane.
“Because of the magnitude of this event, it’s going to require a large amount of volunteers and staff members to help those who are affected,” Banks said.
When volunteering to assist with storms, Banks said he always get “butterflies” but he uses his experience to try to make good decisions.
“There’s no overconfidence. You just try to make the best decisions to help the people who are affected,” Banks said. “Sheltering is our main focus. Once you put people in shelters, you need to feed them.”
Three other volunteers from the region left earlier Tuesday to head south, said Bill Goldsworthy, executive director of the American Red Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“That’s what we do: we protect people and help people. That’s the nature of our business,” Goldsworthy said. “We don’t run from danger. We run into it.”
The American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region also plans to send at least two of its emergency response vehicles south.
Red Cross officials continue to monitor the storm’s progress locally. The Red Cross is leaving additional supplies and resources in the local area to ensure it’s ready in case the storm track shifts and affects Eastern Pennsylvania.
Anyone who wants to assist the Red Cross can donate at redcross.org, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
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