- Volunteers assisted in hurricane relief
Area volunteers deployed to hurricane-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast were honored Tuesday at the American Red Cross of the Wabash Valley's Hurricane Season 2005 Reception.
A total of 126 area residents were commended individually for their roles in the Wabash Valley Chapter's hurricane relief effort in 2005. The chapter trained and deployed 114 new volunteers from August to mid-October, who were dispatched throughout the Gulf region to serve in a wide variety of capacities. Tom Sawyer, Board President of the American Red Cross of the Wabash Valley, thanked the members of the audience for their contributions.
"Hopefully we don't have to do this every year. But it is important that we, the board, celebrate you, the volunteers," he said. "You make the Red Cross what it is today."
Seelyville native Crystal Ravellette said she decided to enlist in the Red Cross' hurricane relief effort after watching the devastation on the news.
"I got tired of screaming at the television set. I found myself sitting around watching it on TV, wondering why nobody was doing anything," she said. "Then I realized there was something I could do."
After receiving her Red Cross training, Ravellette was deployed to Bogalusa, La. She arrived in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, when communications in the area were virtually nonexistent-- phone lines were down, mail service had ceased and cell phone towers were only intermittently operational, she said.
Ravellette worked closely with displaced hurricane victims at relief centers, she said, attending to everyday needs and even throwing birthday parties for several children rendered homeless by the storms. When the time came for her to return home, she said, it was difficult to say goodbye to the people she had cared for.
"We were like family," she said. "I cried when I left there. I just didn't want to leave."
Diandre Stone, a mother of three from Bloomingdale, Ind., completed two separate tours of duty in the Gulf Coast. She was deployed to Hattiesburg, Miss., in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, attending to storm victims in one of the most heavily damaged areas in the gulf. When Wilma struck, Stone traveled to Florida to serve as a site supervisor at relief center headquarters in Naples. She said her participation in the relief efforts was as valuable to her as it was to the people she helped.
"It's a wonderful feeling, being able to help people who came to you because they didn't know where else to go," she said. "They know what they need but they don't know where to go to get it. Within three or four days, you have a bond with these people you met by chance."
Nationally, the Red Cross set a goal to train and deploy 40,000 volunteers to assist in the gulf, a figure eventually exceeded by several thousand. The organization has also raised about $1.5 billion for its hurricane relief effort, according to Carol Stevens, Executive Director of the Wabash Valley chapter.
"The Wabash Valley's piece of this really made a difference," she said. "We thank you on behalf of all who have been helped by your support."