Red Cross workers help storm victims

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By Jenny Hartley

Local American Red Cross workers continue to help in hurricane-stricken areas in Texas and Louisiana.

Lancaster resident Robert Summers will soon be on his way home from his duties as a site manager in Houston, where Hurricane Ike hit hard. It's the first time he's ever served as a site manager in a disaster area.

He coordinated about 107 Red Cross and Southern Baptist Convention volunteers, who helped feed families affected by the storm. The storm knocked out electricity for thousands, tore down trees and blew roofs off of homes.

Feeding storm victims

Summers has been overseeing the delivery of food to residents. For lunch, its often ham, chicken or peanut butter sandwiches. A typical supper may be ravioli, fruit salad and beans.

"We've got some hungry people out there, bad hungry," Summers said. "People don't have anywhere to go."

Summers has been in Texas since Sept. 11. He and his fellow volunteers have been sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of Houston First Baptist Church. He's coming home early this week.

First-hand experience

Cheryl Ferguson, a nurse, has been helping out in Houston, and was slated to come back this weekend.

Local Red Cross chapter director Gina Amato arrived Thursday in Baton Rouge, La. She'll serve in a management position.

This is first time she's travelled out of state to respond to a disaster, and it will give her valuable management experience she can use closer to home.

"If we have another Great Falls, we won't have to call in someone," Amato said, referring to the 2006 mill fire that sent toxic chemicals into the air and required evacuations in the Chester County town.

Amato will return to Lancaster in two weeks. Other volunteers, like Cricket Harper, will stay in Lancaster and run the office while Amato's gone. Then Harper plans to leave at the end of the month to lend a hand in storm-ravaged areas.

Buses help out

Local tour buses heeded the call for help, and headed to Texas to move evacuees away from the coast.

Shirley Howie Garrett of Sunshine Tours said two buses from her company, and seven buses from Lancaster Tours assisted in evacuation of the Texas coast before Hurricane Ike made landfall.

Sunshine Tours' buses were home for three days after Hurricane Gustav, only to be called back to Texas for Ike, Garrett said. Drivers Bob Garrett and Jim Sweatt made the trip.

Garrett said she talked with a public safety director in Texas on Thursday, who said the Lone Star state was thankful for assistance from South Carolina.

"They were grateful for all the help," Garrett said. "We were happy to help out. And we never know when the tide may turn and we need to call on the motor coaches of Texas to help in South Carolina. We may need them some day."

Another way to help

Storm damage, flooding, and power outages from Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike have caused the cancellation of blood drives in affected areas, and many blood donors have been unable to keep their donation appointments. Prolonged power issues could mean thousands of units of lifesaving blood might not be collected.

If you want to help the Red Cross but can't travel to the hurricane-stricken areas, you can still give blood.

Upcoming Red Cross blood drives are:

u Wednesday, Springs Memorial Hospital, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

u Thursday, Lancaster Golf Club, 840 Springs Club Drive, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., sponsored by the Lancaster Rotary Club

u Oct. 17, Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 1005 University Drive, 2:30 to 7 p.m.

u Oct. 20, Liberty Freewill Baptist Church, 3026 Camp Creek Road, 3 to 7:30 p.m.

u Oct. 23, Burns Ford Mercury, 2001 Charlotte Highway, 2:30 to 7 p.m.

For details on volunteering or the blood drives, call the Lancaster American Red Cross at 283-4072.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at 283-1151