Local organizations sending aid for Hurricane Sandy relief - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Local organizations sending aid for Hurricane Sandy relief

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Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross
Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross
Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross
Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross Photo Courtesy: American Red Cross

Right now, millions people are without power because of Sandy, and Red Cross workers from the Tri-State are already on the east coast ready to help. 

We are told Indiana was one of the first states to respond to the east coast. Homeland security has sent more than a hundred volunteers to evacuate those in hospitals and nursing homes over the weekend.

The Red Cross in Evansville has also sent volunteers and two emergency response vehicles are providing hot food and drinks to disaster areas the storm hit on Monday night.

Crews from our local Evansville Wabash American Red Cross left over the weekend, and waited out the storm in Pennsylvania and New York.

"From all sides of this one it is going to be bad, it's really starting to come in on us here in Pennsylvania," said Phil Peckinpaugh, a local Red Cross volunteer in PA. 

Volunteers tell 14 News that even they were ordered to be off the streets after noon on Monday.

"For our safety also, they suggest we go back to our hotel, wait for the storm to hit and things calm down a bit," Peckinpaugh said. 

Peckinpaugh and Clem Behme are one the crews in Pennsylvania travelling in an Emergency Response Vehicle. The vehicles will be used to deliver food and drinks to disaster stricken areas.

"There have been hundreds of volunteers from all over the country deployed to open up shelters throughout the East Coast, so it is just kind of a wait and see game. We have to wait to see where the hardest hit areas are before we can really provide the relief to all of the residents that may need it. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Julie Krizen with the Red Cross.

Peckinpaugh, along with other volunteers, waited out the storm and say they were expected to be moved into a shelter by Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

"Don't necessarily want to get in harms way, but you have to do what you have to do to help people. Often times when you see people who've needed your help, it's heart warming and that's why we do this," Peckinpaugh said.

To help in the aftermath of Sandy, four more volunteers from all over our area, Henderson, Owensboro, Illinois, and Vincennes, will be leaving to head to the east coast Wednesday morning.

From the flooding to the fires, the sights coming from the East Coast are heartbreaking to Red Cross volunteer Kathy Grochowski.

Grochowski has also served in the aftermaths of Katrina and Ike. She's one of 4 volunteers leaving at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
The group is heading to southern New Jersey. They're expect to be put to work in a shelter.
"We have volunteers who specialize in health services. We have sheltering volunteers who are requested and feeding volunteers who are requested as well," said Nikki Hawkins with the Red Cross.   

The local Red Cross doesn't expect volunteer requests to slow down any time soon. 

On Monday, 230,000 ready-to-eat meals were served. The Red Cross reports 1,700 volunteers already in the battered areas.

"It takes will and a little time to be ready to help out," Grochowski said.

Grochowski filled out her final paperwork Tuesday night. Her giving, caring heart is packed and she's ready to go help once again.

"It's very humbling. It definitely makes you appreciate what you have when you come home," Grochowski said.

There are four local volunteers in Pennsylvania and four in New York, in addition to the four leaving Wednesday. 

They'll be assisting with relief operations, maybe at shelters or helping with mass feeding.

But before they pack up and go, there's an important process these volunteers have to go through. 

"A lot of people want to help right after the storm, but they don't realize we do have training that volunteers need to take before they can deploy to national assignments or even here locally," Krizen said. "So, we really are encouraging anyone that's interested in becoming a volunteer to contact any of your local offices and take that free training."

Vectren tells 14 News they have relieved some of their contractors to help. No Vectren employees have been sent.

Spokesperson Brandy Spainhoward said: "Vectren, as well as most utilities, belongs to a number of mutual assistance groups. These mutual assistance groups consist of various electric utilities and are in place to assist in the event of a substantial event, such as Hurricane Sandy which is predicted to do significant damage to the electrical system in the Northeast. After being contacted via mutual assistance calls, Vectren reviewed all contractors working on Vectren property at this time and determined it was safe to release crews that are non-essential to Vectren's current weather-related restoration efforts, including contract crews doing line clearance (tree trimming) and distribution line restoration work, to help with the aftermath of Sandy. Before releasing contract crews, Vectren also talked with neighboring utilities to ensure there are enough crews in the area to assist one another in the event our region faces wind or weather threats as well.  Currently, no Vectren employees have been released to assist, nor have we been asked for further assistance at this time."

Kenergy says they might be sending some workers out east.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security says that they have deployed 107 people and 44 vehicles, including 24 ambulances, to the region.

For those of you who are in the Tri-State and are interested in helping out the storm relief, can help by giving blood.

The Red Cross tells 14 News 300 blood drives across 14 states along the east coast have been cancelled because of Sandy. 

They say that means there's a shortfall of 9,000 units of blood and platelet donations, and because of that, there is an urgent need for blood donors. 

So, if you donate here in the Tri-State your blood may end up going east to help patients in need.

Donating takes about an hour and one donation can save up to three lives. 

For more information on how to give blood, click here.

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