Germantown - As super storm Sandy raged across more than a dozen states from Ohio to New Jersey last week, residents abruptly evacuated their homes taking none of their belongings with them and necessitating a massive volunteer movement.
Many people left their homes without medication, food or clothing, creating a great need for both monetary and manpower assistance across the East Coast, Germantown resident and health services professional Linda Arnold said. Arnold was deployed to Long Island by the American Red Cross on Oct 28.
She has volunteered with the Red Cross for more than four years after retiring as a private duty nurse. Since then, Arnold has rendered medical services to people affected by numerous natural disaster locations across the U.S.
Arnold serves as the health services adviser for the state of Wisconsin Red Cross as well as the lead for health services in the regional chapter that covers 28 counties in Wisconsin and as far as Iron Mountain, Mich. Though she has utilized her medical experience in the wake of tornadoes, floods and a slew of disasters, none compare to the devastation left in Sandy's wake.
Helping with basic needs
"It's the worst disaster New York has had in a very long time," Arnold said in a phone interview from Long Island. "There are sections of neighborhoods that are completely gone either by fire or floods or just wind that has destroyed buildings - some that have just kind of floated away."
As of Friday, there were still 700,000 people without power in the area where Arnold is managing the Red Cross' health services response. There are about 1,500 people in shelters, many of whom left without their medications. The need, she said, is continuing to increase as temperatures begin to drop and food continues to spoil.
Last week, Arnold said they were serving about 3,300 hot lunches and dinners to displaced residents in one area of Long Island.
"A lot of people have needs for assistance walking or getting to the bathroom and have medication needs so it's something that takes an awful lot of assistance for that many people," she said. "What I'm doing is trying to put people in spots to help them at the shelters and also trying to arrange for services some people need."
As of last week, there were 40 volunteers from eastern Wisconsin and two emergency response vehicles sent out by the local chapter of the American Red Cross, according to local Red Cross Community Office Director Janean Brudvig. Four of the volunteers were from Washington County.
Arnold said the relief effort could take six to eight weeks, though she was not sure how long she would be stationed in Long Island.
Donations of time, money needed
While the full damage continues to be assessed, the need for nurses, monetary donations and manpower is great.
"This will be one of the most expensive disasters we've had in a long time," Arnold said. "We've been overwhelmed by people in need."
Donating $10 by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999 can go a long way in providing meals, as well as medications to those affected by the storm. Customers of participating wireless carriers can make the $10 donation to support disaster relief, which will be added to the mobile phone bill.
"For those volunteering, it takes a lot of people to keep those shelters running, so we have needs in all kinds of area and everything you can think of - people who are good with books, people who are good with working with people, mental health professionals who can help people dealing with this disaster," Arnold said. "We have a desperate need for nurses right now."
For more ways to help, visit redcross.org.
WAYS TO HELP
implement customer donation program
place Red Cross banner ad on website
text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make $10 donation (customers of participating wireless carriers can make a donation to support disaster relief, which is added to the mobile phone bill)
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