Saratoga County

Volunteers from Capital Region enjoy helping Gulf hurricane victims

Alan Pfeiffer left Wednesday for his second Red Cross trip to the Gulf Coast this year.


Alan Pfeiffer left Wednesday for his second Red Cross trip to the Gulf Coast this year.

After a six-day break at his home in Moreau, Pfeiffer, who just spent a month in Monroe, La., with Hurricane Gustav victims, went to Texas to provide relief where Hurricane Ike struck.

“I got the house winterized; got the snowblower started up,” he said Tuesday evening. He’s signed up for a three-week stint, but may extend it if he decides to do so.

For Pfeiffer and other regular American Red Cross volunteers, deployment during disasters is a pull they can’t seem to resist.

“People just don’t understand,” said Mary Beth Delarm, a Saratoga Springs resident who came back Friday from 31⁄2 weeks in Texas. “Somebody’s got to do it, and not everybody wants to step up to the plate.”

A substitute teacher for local schools, Delarm started volunteering after Sept. 11, 2001.

She worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Katrina as a photographer and doing search and rescue for animals, and decided to switch to volunteering with the Red Cross after the well-documented FEMA public relations disaster during that 2005 storm.

Pfeiffer’s volunteer experience also was shaped by Katrina. He spent five months on the Gulf Coast then. “There was so much to do down there.”

He expects there is still a lot of work to do in Texas. “I imagine it’s a mess down there,” Pfeiffer said.

Delarm was originally deployed Sept. 3 to Mississippi to provide relief after Hurricane Gustav and then got sent to Galveston, Texas, when it was clear Ike was headed there.

She and other volunteers hunkered down in a church while the hurricane passed; only one window broke, she said.

After the storm, they traveled to towns around southern Texas in their Emergency Relief Vehicle feeding people.

The Southern Baptists and the Red Cross both provide hot meals to people in the disaster areas, she said.

“We supplement each other to make sure everybody has a hot meal,” Delarm said. Twice they ran out of hot food and had to turn people away.

“Your heart just sinks, because some of them won’t get a meal till the next time around.”

Volunteers ate very little themselves and slept on cots in shelters after working 12-hour days or longer, she said.

A highlight for her was delivering meals to a man who was housebound during and after the storm. “Everybody kept saying, ‘There’s this man trapped.’” Delarm and her fellow volunteers tried to find him.

“We’d go down one street and the road would end because there was a house blown in the middle of it.”

When they eventually found the house, they discovered the stairs leading to the second-floor flat had been blown away by the storm, and neighbors had built steps almost the whole way to the balcony, so Delarm could hand meals up to the man’s wife.

Pfeiffer recalled helping a single mom and her teenage son whose house was flooded during Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana.

“We walked into the house, and the kitchen ceiling was falling in just from the dampness,” he said. “You squashed when you walked through, and everything was mildewed and musty.”

Delarm was disturbed by the treatment of abandoned animals during Hurricane Ike relief. Only one animal group appeared to be working in southern Texas, she said, and she saw evidence of abundant puppy mills in the area.

Some people offered to sell her a puppy on the street.

Pfeiffer is a volunteer with the Adirondack Saratoga chapter of the Red Cross, while Delarm helps out with the Northeastern New York chapter. Both groups have local people deployed to the Gulf Coast.

The Northeastern New York chapter based in Albany has deployed 30 people for hurricane relief so far, including, from Albany County: Alan Hodges, Frank Dixon, Tim DeLaRosa, Elizabeth Briand, Fasina Baptiste, Richard Nells and Clayton Kolb; from Saratoga County: Grayden Bauer, Sonja Ronovech, Diane Hurtt and Marjorie Morrell; from Schenectady County: Jeff Fox and Tom Pillsworth; and Lois Svelha from Fulton County.

The Adirondack Saratoga chapter based in Glens Falls has deployed 24 people to help with the hurricanes, including several people from Saratoga County.

Dan Martin of Saratoga Springs, Elizabeth Trombley of Ballston Lake, Joseph Devito of Ballston Lake, Barbara Gaige of Malta and Richard Kozlowski of Saratoga Springs are in Texas for Hurricane Ike relief.

Morris Monica of Corinth, James Morzillo of Saratoga Springs, Robert Reed of Saratoga Springs and Raymond Bouchard of Greenfield Center went to Louisiana at the end of August.

Cary Eddy of Saratoga Springs went to Florida for Tropical Storm Fay in late August.

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