Hendry Volunteers Jump into Action During Isaac

Over the last 18 months, the American Red Cross, Florida’s Southern Gulf Region has merged its Collier and Lee county offices and expanded into Hendry and Glades Counties in order to better serve the region. During this process, the region has focused on developing a capable core of volunteers in Hendry and Glades that would be able to respond in times of disaster.

Hendry County volunteers completed their first training early in the day on Saturday, August 25. Later that evening, those volunteers were in the midst of disaster operations as they opened and managed shelters in Labelle for the first time.

When asked if she was nervous about having to begin disaster operations within hours of completing her training, Dianne Johnson said, “Not at all. None of us knew entirely what we were doing, but we ran with it.”

Mary Bartoshuk echoed that thought.

“We worked as if we had been doing this together for a long time.”

Johnson and Bartoshuk said the best part of their experience was the sense of community that Red Cross was able to create within the shelter. Both women told the story of a family of seven that came to the shelter with a new bottle for their baby that wasn’t working and the Red Cross was prepared with three bottles in the team’s kit.

The group kept the shelter running through the night.

Bartoshuk and another volunteer went door-to-door in a low-income senior housing complex to deliver the shelter’s leftover food.

Although the impact of Hurricane Isaac wasn’t as strong as anticipated for southwest Florida, Johnson feels it was a good opportunity to prepare for the future. “It was great practice and we’re prepared in case there ever is a big disaster,” Johnson added.

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