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Local volunteers heed call

Rogue Valley's Red Cross volunteers will help with post-hurricane relief

Southern Oregon volunteers Bob and Carol Strode clambered into an American Red Cross disaster van Monday morning, ready to drive 2,300 miles to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The retired Grants Pass educators were headed from Medford to Little Rock, Ark., where they expect to load up on food, water, snacks and supplies for distribution in neighborhoods devastated by the Gulf Coast storm.

I'd like to say I'd made a difference, said Carol Strode, 59, who also helped out with Hurricane Ivan.

The Strodes were among several local Red Cross volunteers mobilized as Katrina slammed into low-lying coastal communities, bringing wild wind and rain and flooding some homes to the rooftops.

Five Rogue Valley volunteers flew out on Sunday; others were expected to leave this week.

They've put out a call to volunteers, said Dennis McNamara, a Jackson County mental health specialist trained in disaster response. They're looking for anybody to come to do anything.

The Strodes will focus on mass feeding and mobile distribution of supplies. Red Cross workers typically drive through neighborhoods, calling to residents through a mobile public address system. They distribute the free supplies through a small window in the Red Cross van, Carol Strode said.

Although they're trained in basic first aid and CPR, they won't provide medical assistance, said Bob Strode, 64.

People think of the Red Cross and they think bandages, but that's not it, he said.

McNamara was still waiting Monday to hear when he'd be dispatched to provide emergency mental health services.

I've never done hurricanes before, said McNamara, who worked in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I've done tornadoes, planes flying into the Pentagon and floods.

Regardless of the type of disaster, human response ' and need ' remains the same.

It's all crisis stuff, McNamara said. It's helping them begin to process what's happened to them, to focus on developing support and starting to deal with whatever they're beginning to experience.

Despite the threat of danger and deprivation, the volunteers said they were looking forward to the chance to help.

I'm retired, not dead, said Bob Strode, who signed up for Red Cross training at the urging of his wife.

The response of victims more than makes up for any effort, added McNamara.

I like this kind of work, McNamara said. It's very focused on the here and now. And while you're seeing people suffer a lot, they're basically healthy people and they get back on track. A little hand-holding, just somebody to listen to may be all they need. It's tremendously rewarding.

Local Red Cross officials are accepting monetary donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina. No donations of food, water or other physical supplies are needed. Call 779-3773.

Local volunteers heed call"jaleccia@mailtribune.com.

Red Cross volunteers Bob and Carol Strode are driving an American Red Cross disaster van across country to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell