Local volunteers help with flood relief in Louisiana

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Dangerous flooding in Louisiana has led to at least 10 deaths and 40,000 homes damaged. The Charleston-area American Red Cross says the Louisiana flooding is all too familiar for people in Charleston.

Regional Communications Manager Jennifer Heisler says, “We’re still recovering from our own floods back in October. So when we were asked to help, of course our volunteers and our staff said absolutely we will go and do whatever it takes.”

16 local volunteers are currently providing aid in Baton Rouge. One of them is Ann Baughman who has volunteered with the Red Cross for more than 50 years.

She says, “They’ve been showing on the television what a terrible time they’ve been having and apparently the rain is ongoing, and it’s making it difficult, and people are having to be rescued and taken from their homes. This morning I was watching it on the television and I thought, I can help.”

This is not the first time Baughman has traveled to provide help to Louisiana.

She says, “I was in Katrina there for six weeks in Baton Rouge, same place I’m going now.”

Right now, the focus is on shelters.

Heisler says, “That’s really the first step during this response. People are still being evacuated out of homes, they’re being rescued from cars in the high waters, they don’t have anywhere to go. We actually have about 50 shelters with community partners open across Louisiana and they are housing over 10,000 people a night in those shelters.”

Red Cross volunteer Gary Gardner has been deployed to disaster areas about 30 times in the past eight years. He is a manager of shelter operations and says arriving in these flood zones brings a mix of emotions.

He says, “When you first get there it’s chaos because you’re coming in and you don’t know what you’re coming into until you actually get there. As far as the people you’re going to help, some of them are pretty grief stricken. They’ve lost their homes. They’re kind of in shock.”

The Red Cross says it’s community support from volunteers like these that help them get the job done. They say any amount of financial contribution or volunteer hours could help more people in Louisiana.

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