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Volunteer helps flood victims

Red Cross agent returns from Houston

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

Linda Devane, left, and another American Red Cross volunteer sort through paperwork and case files from victims affected by devastating floods in Houston, Texas. Devane spent almost two weeks in the city and surrounding areas as a volunteer with the local chapter of the American Red Cross helping residents clean up and get back on their feet.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_IMG9516601-1.jpgLinda Devane, left, and another American Red Cross volunteer sort through paperwork and case files from victims affected by devastating floods in Houston, Texas. Devane spent almost two weeks in the city and surrounding areas as a volunteer with the local chapter of the American Red Cross helping residents clean up and get back on their feet. Submitted
Agents with FEMA use heavy machinery to clean away debris left behind by the storms in Houston in this photo provided by Linda Devane with the local chapter of American Red Cross.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/web1_IMG9516441-1.jpgAgents with FEMA use heavy machinery to clean away debris left behind by the storms in Houston in this photo provided by Linda Devane with the local chapter of American Red Cross. Submitted

LaGRANGE — Linda Devane is no stranger to the devastation Mother Nature can sometimes leave behind.

The volunteer with the local chapter of the American Red Cross of Central Midwest Georgia recently returned from a two week deployment to Houston, Texas, where floods ravaged parts of the city and its suburbs.

“I was able to see a lot of the devastation. I saw many of the bayous and they had overflowed. … A lot of people lived close to those areas,” Devane explained. “ … I went to a little town called Brookshire. … They had rice fields there that were flooded. So we assisted folks out there. The area reminded me of the low lying areas in south Georgia.”

According to the National Weather Service, some places in and around the Houston area saw 15 inches of rain in 10 hours. The deluge of water flooded surrounding bayous and low lying areas.

Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes and many folks were rescued from roads and highways as they became trapped inside their vehicles from flash floods.

Federal officials said at least seven people died in the storms.

Currently, damage from the floods is estimated at $5 billion.

Devane left for Houston on April 22 and said she remained busy until she returned on May 4.

She worked in temporary emergency shelters, which also served as a service center for victims. While there, Devane interviewed folks and gave them assistance, like gift cards to buy food or clothing, and referred them to more long-term agencies that would be able to meet their needs.

She said her group of volunteers traveled up to an hour away some days to help people get back on their feet.

“We went into the homes — well, those that were in good enough shape to get in to,” Devane remembered. “Otherwise, we would sit on benches outside or in cars and typed up new cases.”

The volunteer also provided a helping hand in the American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle, feeding people twice a day in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods.

“Everybody came out. They were just thrilled to see a hot meal available for them,” Devane said. “We also had cleaning kits to hand out so they could clean up their homes or apartments. The kits had cleaning supplies, cloths, masks, bleach and gloves.”

Within a few days of her arrival in Houston, Devane said the Federal Emergency Management Agency also arrived on scene. The organization brought huge pieces of equipment to start removing mounds of debris left behind by the floods.

“We (ARC volunteers) worked long hours. When we were out in the field, it was nonstop,” Devane remembered. “We’d get back to the hotel and we’d be so tired … it’s very tough, but it’s very well worth it.”

The Houston flooding was not Devane’s first deployment as a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Last year she traveled to Middleton, California, near Napa Valley, to help folks who lost everything when their homes were ravaged by wildfires.

While Devane admitted the devastation can be hard to see, it never stops the captain of an American Red Cross Disaster Action Team from jumping in to help people in need without blinking an eye.

“What the Red Cross does is unbelievable,” she said. “I retired two and a half years ago and the first thing I did was … volunteer for the Red Cross. I don’t think many people understand what they do.

“It’s a challenge to go to these deployments, but it is so well worth it. I’d definitely do it again,” she added.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.