Two American Red Cross volunteers from Sturgeon Bay have answered the call of duty and are now on the East Coast helping those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
What some have dubbed a “superstorm” decimated several eastern states after it touched down last week, leaving people homeless or displaced and without power, food and water. The category 1 storm caused schools, businesses and mass transit to shut down.
Red Cross volunteers Rudy Senarighi and Ron Maloney were deployed to New Jersey and Long Island respectively.
Senarighi, who spent more than 25 years as a guidance counselor with the Green Bay School District and later the Sturgeon Bay School District, is working as a mental health supervisor. He arrived on Oct. 31 in Philadelphia and drove to Somerset, N.J. From there he was sent to Tinton Falls, N.J.
He is with a team of five other mental health workers and nurses. Since reaching New Jersey his team and others have made 17,000 support contacts. Part of Senarighi‘s job is to make contact with those who might need mental health services and put them in touch with agencies that will be able to assist them in the coming weeks.
The nurses and counselors offer “health services and emotional support contact,” Senarighi said.
He said the volunteers are really only able to give “Band-Aid” care.
“The hardest part is leaving and not seeing what happens to them,” Senarighi said. “Because you really want them to make it.”
There are 5,300 people from all over the country volunteering in the hardest-hit areas, he said.
Right now people are most concerned with an impending storm that was due to hit today.
“The big issue right now there is a nor’easter predicted for Wednesday, and it’s supposed to be a big one,” Senarighi said.
The last thing people need is to deal with is cold and rainy conditions on top of everything else, he said.
As his team travels from shelter to shelter, they’ve seen the destruction left by the storm.
“You know the beaches are wiped clean, the downtown areas are deserted, the sand from the beaches is piled thick and high,” he said.
Power companies with crews from all over the country and road crews are working around the clock to get people back on track.
“Boy, it’s a mess,” he said. “Lots and lots of water damage, as you’d imagine,” he said. People have had to throw out furniture and mattresses that were ruined by the flooding.
While schools have been closed in New Jersey, Senarighi has seen many of the local high school students volunteering at the Red Cross center, manning the phones and helping with other tasks. Schools are slated to open today or Monday.
Senarighi is slated to return home Nov. 16.
For Maloney, who left Sturgeon Bay on Saturday for the East Coast, his pitching in and helping has gone a little slower, since the city of New York is still turning its city-run shelters over to the Red Cross. With all the volunteers coming in, people are still being given their assignments.
Maloney is currently stationed, for a minimum of three weeks, at a Red Cross bulk distribution center on Long Island. He and other volunteers are staying in a Marine barracks. His job is to help get trucks loaded and drive the supplies to the designated shelters.
Monday was Maloney’s first full day on the job. He distributed supplies to a shelter being run out of a Church of the Nazarene. The shelter is not affiliated with the Red Cross, but the volunteer organization does supply to shelters in need of supplies.
He said going from shelter to shelter can take anywhere from a half-hour to two hours.
Maloney and Senarighi were astounded at how long the lines are for gas stations.
A few miles west of the coast, there are still lots of power outages, meaning traffic lights were not working. Also, many gas stations had either run out of gasoline or didn’t have the power to pump the gas, Maloney said.
Senarighi saw gas lines that went on for seven miles.
Both men are touched by the strength of the human spirit that they see around them.
“You know its amazing how upbeat everybody is,” Maloney said. “In the shelter everybody is really willing to help each other … you don’t see a lot of people who are really down.”
“It still amazes me, this is like my ninth deployment for a national disaster, and I continue to see people helping people,” Senarighi said.