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How Michiganders are helping with hurricane relief - and what you can do

Hurricane Harvey approaching Texas a few days ago

More than 60 Red Cross volunteers from Michigan were deployed to disaster areas as of Sunday night to help manage shelters, serve food, and assess damage from Hurricane Harvey.

“They’re being deployed to the Houston area primarily, and their job descriptions range from mass care support, helping in shelters, social workers, bulk distribution, nurse assistant; we have the full complement of job descriptions for these workers that are going down,” says Perry Rech, the spokesperson for Red Cross Disaster Services in Michigan.

Those volunteers have committed to helping out in Texas for at least the next two weeks, he says, and more are on their way.

“These are individuals who have lives of their own, and have been training and practicing with the Red Cross to get up to speed for when disaster strikes,” says Rech. “They’re leaving their families, and their jobs, and their world to go help others.”

Mike Mitchell, who runs the West Michigan chapter of the Red Cross, is deploying this week to coordinate between emergency response teams and local Texas officials.

“You know, I’ve been to 9/11, I’ve been to Guam after a typhoon struck, I’ve been on a lot of disasters in my 17 years, but the worst disaster is flooding,” Mitchell says. “Because it takes a long time to occur, and a long time to subside, and it’s just so dramatic in impact. We know this is going to be one of the worst, so we know we’re going to be spending week, months, and even years, helping people in the recovery effort as we go forward.”

Meanwhile, he says, they’re still looking for volunteers, and for people willing to donate money and blood.

“We had blood drives that were scheduled down in the Texas area that had to be canceled because of all the disaster that’s taking place right now. So if they can give blood locally here in our community, that blood can find its way to Texas or wherever it needs to be.”  

They’re also in desperate need of big vehicles that can make it through the flooding, says Kimberly Burton, CEO of Red Cross Michigan Region. Already one Red Cross executive from Michigan had to use a dump truck just to get to one of the disaster sites, she says. They’re looking for people or companies who can lend cranes, large trucks, anything that can handle high water.

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, has sent down two helicopters, several airboats, and some 47 officers and personnel from the Great Lakes region.

If you want to help with relief efforts, you can make donations and find a place to donate blood at theRed Cross website.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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