Reaching Out

Judy Dobbins said her first deployment with the Red Cross was a doozy.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, she was dorm supervisor for a New Jersey shelter hosting almost 500 people, including a group from a nearby hospital with IVs and oxygen tanks, a group of developmentally disabled individuals, recovering heroin addicts on methadone treatment and sex offenders who had to be separated nightly. Two babies were born in the shelter.

“It just kind of became an extended family – a dysfunctional extended family on many levels – but it was heartwarming to see people coming together,” Dobbins said.

Ron Maloney, pictured here handing out candy at the Sturgeon Bay St. Patrick’s Day Parade was one of the local Red Cross volunteers who traveled to the East Coast to assist with Hurricane Sandy.

Dobbins, Ron Maloney and Rudy Senarighi were among the local Red Cross volunteers sent to help after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast in early November.

Maloney was sent to Long Island, N.Y. to help distribute food to displaced people. He packed trucks and delivered food supplies and stocked food distribution trucks when they ran low.

He said destruction in Long Island, which stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean, was compounded because of the sandy beaches.

“There were piles of sand that washed three blocks in from the beach area,” Maloney said. “It was piles and piles of sand. They had to clear all that stuff out before we could get in to deliver relief supplies.”

While each area had its unique challenges, some disaster issues are across the board.

Senarighi is a seasoned Red Cross volunteer and was supervisor for the disaster mental health team in Tinton Falls, N.J.

The devastating scene in Montoloking, New Jersey.

“It’s basically reaching out to people in the community and dealing with the staff,” Senarighi said. “We were trying to get people linked up with key health and mental health and disaster response systems in the area.”

Senarighi was deployed for 19 days and by the end of his stint said things were falling into place. Most places had power, and relief agencies were developing longer-term shelters.

Connecting people with long-term help is one of the crucial parts of disaster relief, Senarighi said. The recovery after disaster will take longer than the initial flood of volunteers and supplies, so people need to know what local agencies are there to offer help.

Learning to prepare for emergencies is another important lesson, Dobbins said.

Dobbins volunteers with the Red Cross because she was evacuated from her former home in California when a nearby fire raged. She had family members that lost everything, and the Red Cross was there to help.

She said it was important to have clothes and medicine packed in case of such an emergency.

“It can happen anywhere, anytime,” Dobbins said. “Your life can change so quickly.”