“The end result is that you help your fellow human,” Yolanda said.
More than two months ago Hurricane Ian left a swath of devastation across large parts of Florida. While the storm may be over, the American Red Cross is still on the ground working around the clock to provide support to those affected by the damage. In fact, one Michigan volunteer has already been there to help – twice.
Yolanda DeHaan deployed from Kalamazoo to Florida with the first wave of Red Cross volunteers, preparing for the storm ahead of landfall. It was her first deployment.
“I wanted to pay it forward,” Yolanda said. “It’s the only way I know that I can help a lot of people in a short amount of time. I can serve so many people this way, more than I could just by myself.”
And help she did. Yolanda worked in the shelters on overnight shifts, providing comfort and assistance to those who were evacuated from their homes and couldn’t return. She was one of hundreds of volunteers who helped thousands of people, offering warm meals, blankets and safety from disaster areas. Yolanda said the damage she saw just from driving on the main roads was shocking.
“It really tugs on your heart, because it could be anyone. My sister is in Tampa and she missed the whole thing,” Yolanda said.
After returning from her two-week deployment, Yolanda answered a renewed call for volunteers in Florida two weeks later.
“We’re all different, but we’re all the same. And when you’ve got human suffering, you go help,” Yolanda said.
While she worked in a shelter again on her second deployment Yolanda met lots of volunteers doing other things to assist people affected by the storm. Yolanda said volunteers are “there for whatever people need to get back on their feet.”
“People are so thankful that you took the time,” Yolanda said. “The end result is that you help your fellow human.”
After experiencing two deployments, Yolanda said she plans to deploy again. She also recommends it to anyone thinking of volunteering with the Red Cross in Michigan.
“There are so many different fields to choose from with your skills,” Yolanda said.
Aside from disaster deployments, there are many Red Cross volunteer opportunities right at home, Yolanda said. Volunteers offer their time helping at blood drives, responding to home fires, serving veterans and service members, teaching safety preparedness and so much more. Yolanda first started with Red Cross as a candy striper in high school. She gave blood and also took swimming lessons from the Red Cross. Yolanda said her experience has always been very positive, and that’s why she is back as a volunteer.
“It connects you with people,” she said.
Hurricane Ian Response –How to Help
The American Red Cross is working closely with its partners in Florida to continue to provide support to those in need after Hurricane Ian. Nearly 100 volunteers from Michigan have deployed to Florida since the hurricane.
Since shelters were opened for this disaster, the Red Cross and its partners have provided more than 59,000 overnight stays for more than 6,800 residents in more than 80 emergency shelters. In addition, more than 1.7 million meals and snacks and more than 404,000 relief items have been provided to people in the impacted areas.
Currently, there are some 480 trained Red Cross disaster workers still on the ground making it possible to provide recovery assistance to Floridians, including Michigan volunteers. To date, more than 3,300 trained Red Cross disaster workers from across the country have supported this massive response effort.
To help people affected by disasters like storms and countless other crises, individuals can make a financial donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. The donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org, call 800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.