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MailTribune.com
  • Southern Oregon volunteers assist with East Coast storm recovery

  • Three people from the region have traveled to the besieged East Coast to help with recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy's landfall Monday.
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  • Three people from the region have traveled to the besieged East Coast to help with recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy's landfall Monday.
    Southern Oregon Red Cross volunteers Perry Prince, of Ashland; Jerry Hall, of Klamath Falls; and Virginia Renner, from Etna, Calif., joined 14 other Oregon Red Cross volunteers and 2,300 volunteers nationwide to help out.
    "We're just really proud that we have Southern Oregon folks going out and doing this," said Michelle Thompson, Southern Oregon Red Cross readiness specialist.
    Hall is working at a relief shelter set up in a middle school in Buena, N.J. Atlantic City is about a 45-minute drive away.
    "Running a shelter is a 24-hour operation," Hall said. "We have to have Red Cross workers here around the clock."
    The middle school gymnasium is filled with cots. Hall is one of many volunteers to register people who have come to ride out the storm, getting their personal information and contacts before they are checked in.
    "It's a gigantic family with 200 personalities and conditions that aren't comfortable, but they're adequate," Hall said.
    He said the surrounding area didn't get hit too badly.
    "Our area as far as damage was relatively spared," Hall said. "Actually, the eye of the storm went right over us."
    Red Cross officials said Renner has been working as a health services specialist and EMT in Albany, New York.
    "She's attending to the medical needs of both staff and clients," said readiness specialist Tony Hernandez. "She could be working in a shelter, or she could actually be out in the field."
    Perry Prince was assigned to northern New Jersey working as a mental health workers. He will be providing mental health services to both workers and those displaced from their homes.
    Paula Negele, director of communications for Oregon Red Cross, said 17 Oregon-based volunteers have made the trip to help out. A majority of volunteers came from the Willamette Valley chapter.
    Negele said more volunteers are on the way, though it's not known when, as the devastation in some parts of the region exceeded expecations.
    "This has hit such a widespread area, and I think unlike Katrina, or even wildfires that we see here, it's not just thousands of acres. We're talking (whole) states," she said. "I think it's hard for us to imagine the devastation."
    An estimated 9,000 people stayed in 171 Red Cross shelters extending from New Jersey to Ohio the night of Oct. 30.
    Hernandez said the three volunteers are highly qualified to be helping with relief efforts. He said when new volunteers sign up to help, he tells them they will eventually hand a bottle of water or some food to someone who's survived a major disaster. When that happens, he encourages volunteers to look the person in the eye.
    "They're going to see a full spectrum of human emotions there," Hernandez said. "Gratitude, anger frustration, you name it. You're going to see it there. I tell volunteers if that doesn't give them goosebumps, they have no business being there. Each individual from this chapter is going to get the goosebumps. That's the caliber of individuals that these people are."
    — Ryan Pfeil
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