Iowa Volunteers Helping in Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
Thursday, August 31, 2017
DES MOINES, Iowa – One of the most common questions asked amid natural disasters like Houston's Hurricane Harvey is, "How can we help?"
Mark Tauscheck, a communications officer for the Red Cross in Iowa, says that question could be the tagline for his organization, which trains hundreds of people in every state to assist in feeding and sheltering disaster victims and lending their skills in mass casualty situations.
Tauscheck says a lot is asked of volunteers.
"They don't get paid,” he points out. “They have to be willing to be deployed at a moment's notice for days, if not weeks, at a time. So, they really are picking up and leaving their lives behind them – leaving families, and sometimes jobs, to go into disaster areas."
Already in Houston are 45 volunteers from the Iowa Red Cross and dozens more are scheduled to arrive in the coming days. This week, the Red Cross has sheltered 32,000 Houston area flood victims.
Tauscheck says many volunteers are in their 50s and 60s, and some are retired. They're doctors, nurses, educators, and people from a wide variety of professions.
But he says perhaps the most important skill they bring in the initial aftermath of a disaster is the ability to comfort and listen.
Tauscheck says volunteers often feel as if they get more from the experience than they give, and the retention rate for the volunteers is high.
"The Red Cross kind of gets in your blood,” Tauscheck says. “It becomes a way of life. And a lot of these volunteers say just going down and being on the front lines, and helping people at their biggest time of need, is really addictive."
As the remnants of Hurricane Harvey move northeast into Louisiana, the Red Cross and other disaster relief groups will be watching its progress and reacting accordingly.
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