Monday, May 6, 2013

Local Volunteers Help Illinois Disaster Relief Operation

Red Cross volunteers Charlotte Surratt, Joe Baird, Carrie Smith and Mike Sewell.

This past weekend, as most Kentuckiana residents prepared for “the greatest two minutes in sports,” four local American Red Cross volunteers were on their way out of the Commonwealth. In the midst of Kentucky Derby madness, Carrie Smith, Mike Sewell, Joe Baird and Charlotte Surratt traveled to Illinois where they will assist with the Midwest flood response in Arlington Heights and Peoria.

The four volunteers collectively have more than 15 years of disaster response experience with the Red Cross. For this disaster operation, each of them will help provide client casework services to people affected by flooding. Client caseworkers work one-on-one with families and individuals to determine what kind of help they need to get back on their feet following a disaster.

Charlotte Surratt is a retired EMT/CNA/Cake Decorator. A jack of all trades, she began volunteering at the Fort Knox Red Cross a few years ago. She assists the Fort Knox office with everything from the Helping Hands program which provides household furniture and goods for soldiers, to meeting with military families before oversea deployments. Along with her weekly responsibilities in Fort Knox, she tries to serve on at least two disaster operations each year.

“This is my heart, going out on disasters,” Charlotte said. “This is what I was supposed to do.”

Charlotte is trained in several disaster response areas. Following Superstorm Sandy, she traveled to West Virginia where the storm dumped 2-3 feet of snow before moving on to the northeast. In West Virginia, she was in charge of ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) dispatch. Drifts of snow along with icy roads and fallen tree limbs prohibited driving in much of the mountainous area, so it was important for Charlotte to send ERVs to central locations that people could travel to on foot.

Charlotte knows it’s important to remain flexible on disaster operations, but she will say that casework is her favorite as she gets to meet people (and pets!) and be there for them when they need it most.

“A lot of times they’re so grateful to see you they burst into tears. They all have a story and they want you to listen to them.”

A total of 15 volunteers from throughout the Kentuckiana Region are in Illinois helping provide food, supplies, emotional support and health services. The Red Cross will be there to support affected communities until well after the flood waters recede. To support Red Cross disaster efforts, please make a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief at or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.