Vermont’s Red Cross helps with Hurricane Gustav relief

Football isn’t the only thing being kicked off recently; it’s also hurricane season again. In response to Hurricane Gustav, Vermont’s Red Cross is helping in the relief effort.

Rob Levine, the regional executive for Vermont’s Red Cross and the execÂutive director of the Red Cross’ NorthÂern Vermont Chapter, is spending a week working in Washington, D.C. at the American Red Cross Disaster Operations Center (DOC).

The DOC is the organizational hub of the Red Cross. In disasters that are too big for any of the local chapters to handle, the DOC sets the system of response in motion. It oversees around 500 large-scale disasters a year, according to the Red Cross website.

“We’re helping people with shelter, food and emotional support as they’ve been impacted by Gustav,” Levine said.

The DOC oversees the organization of help for the fluctuating number of victims. As of midnight on Monday, there were almost 60,000 displaced people staying in 300 Red Cross shelters in 10 states, according to Levine.

“The disaster that touches [Vermont] the most is the single-family fire, which is no less or more of a disaster than something you would see on the TV screen,” Levine said.

Local Red Cross chapters most often respond to the single-family fire. When the numbers of displaced people outweigh the capacity of the local chapters, those chapters call on the DOC and volunteers nationwide for help.

The Red Cross exists in a large capacity because of volunteers, with volunteers comprising 97 percent of Red Cross staff. According to Levine, there are 1,000 Red Cross volunteers in the state of Vermont and many of those are also part of the national system of volunteers.

“You’ve seen us work hard over the past couple of years to expand our base through community services,” said Levine. “One of the beauties of such a structure is that there are a whole lot of people with a whole lot of skills to help each other.”

“The Red Cross starts in the community but is connected to a nationwide network,” Lyndsy Clark, a UVM student and Red Cross volunteer said. “Being involved in relief efforts elsewhere in the country is what that network is all about.”

University of Vermont students have a history of supporting and volunteering with the Red Cross. “The university is a wonderful partner,” Levine said.

“With everything we saw during Hurricane Katrina it’s good to know that there was better preparation for Gustav,” said UVM senior and Vermont native Aly Bushey. “Even though the hurricane is hitting in the gulf coast, I’m glad that the relief effort branches out as far as Vermont.”