The scene is now mass devastation in Florida's Gulf coastal region. Hurricane Charley's death toll is rising, while hundreds are missing, and thousands are displaced. Two Southern Maryland Red Cross disaster trained volunteers, Joe O'Brien & George Gatton, both from St Mary's county packed their bags and reported for duty Saturday morning. They are leaving the comfort of their families, friends, their jobs, and the calm of Southern Maryland to travel 1,000 miles into the heart of the devastation and provide support to the recovering victims for the next three weeks. The ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle)provides hot meals, drinks, snacks, and clean up kits, free to those anyone in need. They also feed all the workers involved in the clean up and recovery efforts.
Saturday morning they departed with the Southern Maryland chapters' newly acquired ERV and drove over 600 miles in the rain that covered the eastern seaboard most of the day. They will continue to Florida on Sunday where they will join hundreds of other volunteers working round-the-clock to provide emergency relief to families across Florida that were left stunned in the wake of the tropical Storm. Right now the Red Cross anticipates, through the use of the ERVs in its mobile feeding capacity serving 100,000 meals a day for the foreseeable future. As families have been allowed to return to effect areas, they have finally had the opportunity to witness the intensity of the destruction. Red Cross mental health staff is on hand to help people through this trying time, to assist them in talking to their children about difficult subjects and to encourage them to find the strength to care for themselves and their families. Also, Red Cross volunteer medical staff are providing basic first aid to people who have received minor injuries during the clean up process.
To assist in the clean up effort, massive amounts of comfort kits (personal hygiene items) and clean up kits (cleaning products) and been distributed to Florida residences. Damage assessment teams are traveling to each effected neighborhood, allowing Red Cross caseworkers to provide the much needed funds directly to families to assist them in rebuilding their lives.
The effects of Hurricane Charley have been devastating to the population of Florida. The disaster relief efforts will be large scale and long term. The Red Cross will be there to assist everyone who needs help recovering from this storm. All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people.