Red Cross sends NE Indiana volunteers to help with Hurricane Ida relief

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Two men from northeast Indiana will travel to Louisiana to help the American Red Cross assist families impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Dale Vollenweider of Fort Wayne and Bob Harkness of Winona Lake left Fort Wayne Saturday afternoon to head down to Louisiana as Hurricane Ida makes landfall in the state. Ida is expected to have a substantial impact on the Gulf Coast, meaning a greater need for emergency assistance for people sheltering and recovering from the storm. Vollenweider and Harkness will be in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) passing out food, water and supplies to those affected.

Assisting after a hurricane like Ida is not always easy, and Vollenweider said it’s important to keep a cool head.

“One of the concerns is when we get there, there probably won’t be utilities and a place to sleep and so on,” said Vollenweider, who has volunteered for other disaster relief operations including hurricane relief at Lake Charles, Louisiana last year. “There is a concern that the damage affects the people who are responding to disaster just as much as the residents but we have to sort of relax and go with it and be very flexible. That’s one of the things that I just tried to be. Don’t stress about it until you have to.”

Vollenweider keeps volunteering his time for the Red Cross because he believes it’s the right thing to do.

“The people there really need our help,” Vollenweider said. “It’s a way to sort of give back and provide something back to our the people who really need it. I also have a really strong hope that when a tornado hits here, the people from Louisiana will be driving their ERVs to us and providing us the same kind of support.”

Bob Harkness has volunteered nine times to help with disaster relief. He and Vollenweider agreed to go for a two-week stint, but Harkness said that they could potentially stay for longer, depending on how much damage the storm causes. Like last year when he and Vollenweider went to help during Lake Charles, he said they will not really know until they get there.

“And at first, when we got down there, the infrastructure was screwed up because of the no power,” said Harkness. “Grocery stores couldn’t be open and gas stations couldn’t be open. But gradually, as we were there, you could see things starting to come back, at least for that.”

It isn’t always easy work, but Harkness said it’s the job they signed up for.

“That’s what we do, you know, you get in the Red Cross and volunteer for this,” said Harkness. “We’re there to help people who might have the worst day of their life.”

Harkness and Vollenweider are heading to Lake Charles, Louisiana but that can quickly change based on the needs of the area. 

If you are interested in volunteering or want to help with Ida relief click here.

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