Carson man heads to help tornado-ravaged Midwest

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The Sierra Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross has sent four volunteers to the Midwest to provide assistance to residents of tornado- and flood-ravaged areas.

Volunteers from Carson City and Reno boarded a flight Wednesday morning for Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee.

"They'll basically be taking care of sheltering and feeding people," said Donna Brand, public relations volunteer for the Sierra Nevada Chapter.

The volunteers joined hundreds of relief workers at operations under way across the Midwest and Southeast, where tornadoes and flooding hit again Wednesday and Thursday.

The death toll from the weekend's storms stood at 18 in Missouri, 15 in Tennessee and seven in Kansas. More bad weather and tornadoes are forecast. Some of the heaviest rainfall in a century swamped homes and streets in Alabama and forced the evacuation of about 1,000 people in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area.

The Sierra Nevada Red Cross volunteers organize and staff shelters and drive mobile kitchens, called Emergency Response Vehicles, which can serve 5,000 meals per day.

"We actually set up a little community," Brand said, describing the Red Cross shelters.

"And that's what our volunteers do is staff the little community or drive around hot food, hot meals, water, coffee -- whatever is needed by the people responding to the disaster itself."

Retiree and volunteer Chuck McArther of Carson City went to western Missouri.

"Chuck has been a volunteer on and off for, I believe, about six years," Brand said. She said his specialty is "mass care," feeding and providing shelter for large groups.

McArther volunteered at the Martis Fire near Reno and in Georgian flood areas, she said. He recently moved back to Carson City from Florida, Brand said.

"Volunteers normally get settled for one or two days and then call to let us know how we can get in touch with them, but I have not heard from Chuck yet," she said.

Other area volunteers sent to the Midwest are Frank Jones and Elly Skelley, of Reno, who went to Kansas City, Kan.; and Jere Phipps of Reno, who went to Jackson Tenn. Several other chapter volunteers are on call, if needed.

Red Cross volunteers have standardized training in one of 27 different specialties before being sent out to work.

"We've all had standardized training in our specific field," Brand said. "That way, when a call goes out, we all know what we need to do."

Brand's speciality is disaster training. She trains new volunteers and does orientations for them at the various Red Cross operations.

She did orientations for volunteers in New York City after Sept. 11, 2001.


Anyone looking for information on loved ones in storm affected areas can call the Red Cross' resource hot line at 1 (866) GET-INFO.


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