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volunteer LA. shelter highlights-Isaac 2012

My wife and I were deployed as shelter managers from headquarters located in Port Allen, LA. What a privilege to be asked to join a team of seven to open a shelter for potential evacuees from the Louisiana dam site that was breached. The intense rainfall had caused significant damage that led enough Louisiana’s governor to order the evacuation of the areas below the dam in harms way. The action needed to be swift and was under the command of the State of Louisiana National Guard and the LA. department of Children and Family Services plus a full response support sheltering team from the Red Cross. Within a few short hours a high school campus in Pontachula, LA. was ready to receive up to 2,500 evacuees if needed; a true MEGA SHELTER. Fortunately, the dam held and the mandatory evacuation was lifted three days later. However, even though the shelter did not have to be used, the people that lived below the dam knew that there was a place of refuge from the danger. Once our work was completed at that mega shelter, our team was reassigned to open up yet another Mega-shelter located in Baton Rouge. That shelter was to accommodate hundreds of Red Cross staff that were amongst the 3,000+ volunteers assigned to the area to give services to the local clients. My wife and I became totally overwhelmed by the task as supervisors to open and manage this huge two dorm shelter for the next 10 days, commonly known as the CELTIC staff shelter. I am writing this post because many people do not think much about the challenges and logistics involved when 3,000 volunteers converge on an event as wide spread as Isaac (or any other major disaster). Over 200 emergency relief vehicle (ERV) drivers, bulk delivery drivers, RN’s and mental health personnel, shelter staffers, disaster assessment teams, headquarters staff, ect., many needing lodging. In reality, hundreds of cots complete with blankets and pillows set up in an open dorm format does not qualify for any star ratings for normal travelers. However, most of our volunteers understood what their mission was and endured these small
inconveniences for a few days in order to serve those less fortunate victims. It took a couple of days to recoup from our 12 hour shelter shifts, but Karen and I are ready and willing to accept the next challenge as needed. A huge thanks to all Red Cross supporters who made it possible to meet the needs when and where necessary. respectfully, Art and Karen Wyckoff, North Central Florida Chapter; Gainesville, FL.

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