CAPITAL REGION — The Eastern New York region of the Red Cross is making a new push to train volunteers to send to areas recently devastated by a slew of hurricanes to hit the United States and its territories.
Julianne Ersfeld, direct support services manager of the Eastern New York chapter, said that they have sent approximately 88 volunteers from the area to various places, including Houston, to help out with the hurricane relief efforts. Thousands, Ersfeld said, have been deployed across the country.
Ersfeld herself is recently back from spending 10 days in the U.S. Virgin Islands, lending a hand to help alleviate the devastation brought by Hurricane Irma. She was stationed on the islands of Saint Thomas and Saint John.
Ersfeld stayed in a gymnasium for most of the time, which had no power or water for the first five days. Eventually, the volunteers were able to secure a small generator that allowed them to take showers, but the conditions, she said, were still brutal because of the intense humidity.
People from the community were stepping up to help one another as well, Ersfeld said.
Ersfeld said that on her deployment she witnessed certain levels of despair. Eighty percent of buildings on the islands were affected by Irma, and many people were left with no shelter, she said.
Hospitals had to be evacuated, and often morale was affected because it was impossible to drive survival supplies into the islands.
But, she said, people were able to band together to help each other.
“There was definitely some resiliency,” she said. “Everyone was kind of on the same page.”
Ersfeld is currently waiting to find out if she'll be called back to help with the hurricane relief efforts.
Ersfeld is not the only person recently to help out in hard hit areas. In August, Mark and Marianne Theophilis, American Red Cross volunteers from Clifton Park, left for a two-week stint in Texas to aid in the aftermath from Hurricane Harvey. Bobby Domanico, a Halfmoon resident, also traveled south with the Red Cross to help. Domanico was also prepared to stay a gymnasium with at least 150 other people for two weeks.
"To me, it’s always been good to help other people,” he said right before he left.
As part of the Red Cross' push to recruit more volunteers, it's attempting to mentor people quickly. It's also trying to prepare volunteers for tough conditions, such as three straight weeks in 100-degree weather.
“We’re trying to onboard people as quickly as possible,” she said. “The need for volunteers is really huge.”