The challenge was unprecedented — three devastating hurricanes, back to back — but the Red Cross’s Connecticut chapter responded by dispatching over 175 volunteers to Houston, Florida and most recently Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Over the past two months, the Red Cross has sent 177 volunteers from Connecticut and Rhode Island to storm-battered areas across the country and in the Caribbean, according to Jay Bonafede, a Red Cross spokesman. Eighty-nine of them are still in the field, staffing emergency shelters for people displaced by the hurricanes, he said.
Three calamitous storms in a row stretched the organization’s resources and manpower, said Richard Branigan, chief program officer for the Connecticut and Rhode Island region, but when his office put out the call for volunteers, locals responded. After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, their office in Farmington was training new volunteers every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Connecticut Red Cross has 35 volunteers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, manning shelters in the wreckage left by Hurricane Maria.
In Puerto Rico, where 22 Connecticut residents are stationed, the situation is dire. Power has yet to be restored on most of the island, and clean drinking water is in short supply.
The Connecticut chapter of the Red Cross has also sent one volunteer to Las Vegas, where on Sunday a man opened fire on a country music festival, killing 59 and wounding hundreds more. The Red Cross will offer counseling, a family assistance center and other mental health services to survivors, Bonafede said.