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Vermont volunteers help with Hurricane Ida relief in Louisiana

Four Vermonters are currently in Louisiana, helping out with Hurricane Ida relief.
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:48 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Four Vermonters are currently in Louisiana, helping out with Hurricane Ida relief.

“My cellphone and GPS aren’t working, the lights are all off, so there’s no traffic lights,” said David Allen, a Vermont who is currently volunteering at the American Red Cross headquarters in Baton Rouge.

Allen was sent to monitor donor money to protect the people and assets in Louisiana.

“When the storm hit on Sunday, we slept on cots here,” he said.

Vermonter Jennifer Matsen just arrived in Louisiana to work as a volunteer shelter associate. This is her first deployment.

“I expect chaos for the first day or two because they’re just getting started,” Matsen said.

The situation in Louisiana is unfolding constantly and Matsen has had to keep up with changing shelter procedures.

“As fast as they were told to open them they were told to close them because it was not safe,” she said. “By the end of the day they did have 14 shelters open but there’s still no power.”

Back at the headquarters, Allen is also keeping an eye on the devastation that determines their plan for relief.

“We’re very much responding in real time as quickly as possible to the information that’s coming in now,” he said.

Storms and natural disasters usually don’t come with a whole lot of warning. The folks in Vermont who are deployed currently only had about a 24-hour window to accept the volunteer position and pack up for two weeks.

“I got a call last Thursday evening asking if I was available to deploy and by Friday morning at 2:30, I was leaving my home in White River Junction and driving to the airport to catch a 6:20 flight out of Burlington,” Allen said.

“We were told to fill the gas tank and bring food because there’s no restaurants or grocery stores-- there’s nothing open,” Matsen said.

Lending an extra hand is the Vermont way.

“Many of the people in Louisiana who would normally volunteer for disaster response are themselves the victims of disaster,” Allen said.

So how can you help from home? We asked Kevin Mazuzan, the executive director of the American Red Cross in Vermont, to see how Vermonters can get involved.

You can donate money to Red Cross Disaster Relief by going on their website, by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or by sending a check to their local office in Burlington.

You can also volunteer.

“We’re always looking for volunteers to support so there’s opportunities now to get trained up in these positions we’re deploying. You may not get deployed currently because it takes a while to get trained up but there’s volunteer opportunities. Because many areas aren’t collecting blood down south because of the impact of the hurricane, so we’re encouraging people to come in and donate blood,” Mazuzan said.

If you are interested in volunteering like your fellow Vermonters, you can email volunteernne@redcross.org and if you want to donate blood you can make an appointment on their website.

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