LIMA — While many East Coast residents migrated west to avoid the heavy rain, flooding and disaster that Hurricane Sandy brought this week, dozens of local residents have traveled right into its danger to volunteer.
The Red Cross, who sent out volunteers Wednesday, and MedCorp EMS Special Operations Group have volunteer groups lending a helping hand on the East Coast.
Volunteers from MedCorp EMS Special Operations are stationed in Long Island, N.Y., at a police academy, helping wherever they can with hurricane relief. The group was deployed Saturday night.
Medcorp EMS Special Operations Group Chief Drew Croy said the group has 10 Advanced Life Support ambulances, that all have a paramedic on board, and two command vehicles, that support the ambulances and command operations.
“We’ve seen a lot of fires, a lot of power outages and a lot of flooding,” Croy said Wednesday. “We’re doing OK, though. Suffolk County has taken fantastic care of us.”
But the Red Cross is still sending volunteers out, including Colleen and Richard Bekemeier, of Wapakoneta, Jean Schroeder, of Ottawa, and Rodney Knauss, of Van Wert. They all left from the Allen County Red Cross chapter Wednesday, bound for Ocean, N.J., to work in shelters aiding with displaced East Coast residents.
“It’s quite a big commitment, they’ll be out there for at least two weeks,” said Brenda Mead, Red Cross Emergency Services Manager. “They’re sheltering. The people that are going today will be sheltering for displaced people who have lost homes, everything.”
Schroeder is no stranger to volunteering, though. She started helping locally with Ottawa flood relief in 2007 and has volunteered nationally ever since, being deployed for aid for Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Isaac.
“In every place, it’s different. It’s devastating what these people have been through,” she said. “Ike was the worst. There’s this huge beach and then all of the sudden, it’s across the road, everything gone. I don’t know how these people can start over. It’s devastating for them.”
It was Colleen Bekemeier’s first deployment through the Red Cross. Though she’s done community volunteering, she was nervous, yet excited to be able to help the hurricane survivors.
“The feeling of the unknown, it’s nerves,” she said. “There’s so much help that the East Coast needs right now. If I’m able to do a little bit, my small part, I would be very happy to do that.”
Bekemeier said she is preparing herself to console and support those who come into the shelter she’s working.
“It’s going to be a lot, hearing a lot of the tales of what they’ve lost,” she said. “It’s going to be sad. I’ve been praying a lot, but I’m not afraid at all.”
Another first-time deployed volunteer, 22-year-old Knauss, said he’s been praying a lot, trying to mentally prepare himself for the upcoming trip.
“I’m a little bit scared, not much,” he said. “I’ve helped locally, too. Last June, I helped at the shelter in Van Wert and me and another guy basically ran the shelter. I just realized I want to go out and help even more people.”
Meanwhile, two Lima men were already stationed in Hurricane Sandy’s disaster area to provide relief. Tim “Bo” McComas left Lima Saturday morning, driving an emergency response vehicle to New Jersey and Steve Newman flew out Sunday morning, and is stationed in Baltimore.