Illinois Red Cross mobilizing to help Florida residents
CHICAGO - With Hurricane Ian making landfall Wednesday afternoon, catastrophic winds and flooding has left residents displaced.
At O’Hare International Airport (ORD), there were no flights in or out of Florida by late Wednesday morning. Despite that, disaster workers and volunteers are still heading into the storm zone to help.
Currently, 500 American Red Cross volunteers are in Florida to assist with relief efforts, and hundreds more — including some from Illinois — will be on their way soon.
Teams are driving supplies to Florida where shelters will be set up to offer a place for residents to turn as they start to pick up the pieces.
Medical and mental health assistance will be available, in addition to food and clothing.
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"We hear their stories, we hear what has happened with their properties. We’re there in the shelter providing them with a safe space," said Yasmin Clinton, volunteer with Red Cross of Illinois. "I feel like this is the one time when people don’t have a choice in what’s happening to them, and they really need support and help, and I have felt that the Red Cross, for me, has been the best way that I can support those that are in that situation. That’s truly why I do this."
Clinton, who is from Des Plaines, has been volunteering with the organization since 2017. She’s done 9 deployments, including to Louisiana in 2020 for Hurricanes Marco and Laura.
She is set to travel to Florida as soon as it is safe and flights resume.
Until she arrives, she won't know her exact assignment or how long she'll be helping, but tells us it’s her way of giving back.
"It’s a lot of teamwork, a lot of flexibility, and most Red Crossers are so compassionate," said Clinton.
That compassion is also being shown by 70 nurses who were sent to offer medical support and take part in search and rescue efforts.
"They’re there to do everything they possibly can to make it a calm situation, to make it a positive situation for everybody living under these horrific circumstances right now," said Dave Hoke, Med-Call Healthcare CEO.
The mission was organized by Chicago-based Med-Call healthcare, a healthcare staffing company whose CEO says these nurses have dropped everything to help.
"It takes a really special, selfless individual to do what they’re doing," said Hoke. "It’s truly gratifying to be able to do something that you know is meaningful to the community and to the people really having a challenging time."
Since the company needed to find a way to get nurses to the disaster zone quickly – and safely – most of them live in Florida.
However, the company is always looking for people to join their efforts.
Other groups are also stepping up to offer support. A team of Indiana National Guard soldiers with the 38th Infantry Division's Aviation Brigade has been deployed to help with hurricane relief efforts.
It's not expected that flights to and from Florida will resume until later this week.
Orlando International, Tampa International and Southwest Florida International airports are all shut down until Friday.