Red Cross of W MI prepares to help after Harvey

American Red Cross of West Michigan, Hurrican Harvey
The American Red Cross of West Michigan prepares to head south to help people after Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 24, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) –The American Red Cross of West Michigan already has volunteers in Texas as the region braces for Hurricane Harvey.

“What we’re concerned about Hurricane Harvey is No, 1, it continues to strengthen and so the impact is getting potentially worse,” Mike Mitchell, the executive director of the local chapter of the Red Cross, said.

Thousands have already evacuated coastal cities as the hurricane nears.

Mitchell said Thursday that two volunteers from West Michigan were already in Texas helping with set up shelters and preparing for damage assessment. Three others will leave Friday morning and another 100 are on standby. After the hurricane makes landfall, the Red Cross will send case workers to help people one-on-one as they get back on their feet.

“We know that there’s going to be significant damage, significant power outages and now we’re hearing that there’s going to be significant flooding,” Mitchell said.

He gave 24 Hour News 8 an inside look at the disaster relief mobile unit that’s ready to go if they get that call.

American Red Cross of West Michigan, Hurrican Harvey
The American Red Cross of West Michigan loads a truck to take to Texas to help people after Hurricane Harvey. (Aug. 24, 2017)

“So inside the back of the truck here is where we supply all of the food,” Mitchell said. “It’s prepared for us in field kitchens, they take these Cambros out, they fill them with various foods, put them back in here and then they will drive through neighborhoods and actually disperse the food out that window.”

The supplies in just that one truck can provide up to 150 meals.

Louise O’Donnell and Leslie Gilbert aren’t expecting to head to Texas, but the two nurse volunteers have responded to natural disasters in the past.

“Just being beside them, helping normalize their feelings and their thoughts at that moment of intense crisis,” O’Donnell said.

“With an outpouring of love and compassion and being our brother’s keeper, it really inspires people to step up and do more,” Gilbert said.

They are perfect examples of what Mitchell says the Red Cross needs more of: People on the front lines helping, rather than donations of clothing or other items, which aren’t as efficient in helping sustain the nonprofit’s operations.

If you want to help but can’t respond to disasters, Mitchell advised giving blood. It’s possible the storm may cause blood drives in Texas to be canceled, so they may need to call for supplies from elsewhere.