ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A handful of Red Cross volunteers from Western New York are gearing up to head south as Hurricane Ida makes landfall.
One of those is Richard McCory, from Rochester. His flight to Mobile, AL, is due to depart Monday morning.
McCory says Mobile is one of the safer areas to be stationed.
“We were getting more and more reports this would be a major hurricane,” McCory said. “I got a call on Friday to respond. The first flight I could get out was tomorrow.”
As soon as he gets off the plane, McCory says he’ll be visiting shelters and assisting anywhere there’s a need. That could be helping with meals, handing out comfort kits or just offering a shoulder to cry on.
McCory has been volunteering with Red Cross since 2016 and specializes in disaster spiritual care.
“It’s about helping people find hope in the midst of what seems like hopeless situations,” McCory said.
He’s seen a lot: hurricanes, shootings and mass casualty incidents like the recent building collapse in Florida.
He describes disaster spiritual care as emotional support and prayer to those facing the most challenging chapters in their lives.
“We’re a presence to people,” McCory said. “Some might be laughing or joking, which can be strange, nevertheless that happens, or they can be quiet, and off by themselves.”
About 600 Red Cross volunteers nationwide are heading down to assist in the Hurricane Ida crisis.
“Generally I walk around, talk to people, see who needs that compassionate shoulder, that listening ear to help them through this difficult time,” McCory said.
It’s not just about emotional support. Providing shelter and food is one of Red Cross’ most critical contributions to national disaster relief.
“We also move cots, and ready-to-eat meals and comfort kits we provide to people when they come into our shelters,” McCory said.
Volunteers have been spread thin lately with wildfires, flooding, and the crisis in Afghanistan.
McCory believes there’s always a need; and he’s urging anyone interested to go for it.
“I just get a lot out of it,” McCory said.
McCory says volunteers sign a two-week commitment for embarkments like this. However, that time frame can extend depending on the situation.
Red Cross volunteers remain on ground for not just the beginning and during, but the weeks that follow.
For those who cannot travel to help, McCory says the best alternative is a cash donation. You can head over to redcross.com/donate, or text 90999 for a $10 donation.
Click here to learn more about becoming a volunteer.