Cape Fear Red Cross volunteers deployed to the Gulf ahead of Hurricane Laura

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Gulf Coast is already feeling the early bands of Hurricane Laura, and the National Weather Service is calling it an “extremely dangerous” category 4 storm.
Volunteers from our area have already been deployed to the Texas and Louisiana coastlines to help people find shelter.

James Jarvis, the Cape Fear Red Cross executive director, says the pandemic has made their job even more difficult.

“Because of the pandemic, it really has limited our ability to flow the number of volunteers that we would normally send to a region for a situation like this,” Jarvis said.

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The team of volunteers are stationed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana setting up shelters. Gene Pavone, a retired home builder, left his home in Brunswick County to help.

Pavone says that providing people with a safe place to stay is incredibly rewarding for him.

“They come into that shelter and they know they’ve got a roof over their head, and a cot to sleep on, and something to eat, and they’re out of harm’s way,” Pavone said. “It’s just like handing them a key to their new house.”

Jarvis says more than ever before, the American Red Cross needs volunteers willing and able to help.

“It’s really important to have those volunteers willing to leave their homes and travel across the country to help those in need,” he explained. “We appreciate Gene and his team willing to do that.”

These volunteers come from all different walks of life, but with at least one thing in common — a need to give back.

Julienne Correa, a volunteer from Greenville, South Carolina, shared how the Red Cross saved her and fer mother-in-law during the 2017 California wildfires.

“The Red Cross was the people that helped us. So, she now has a great life two years later,” Correa continued. “It’s time for me to give back.”
Since Wednesday, those volunteered moved from Baton Rouge to Alexandria, Louisiana, and are under under a tornado watch.
Correa says though the storm and pandemic can make volunteers feel frustrated and powerless, it’s important to remember the reason they’re there:
“In the end, we’re here to alleviate human suffering. That is our mission.”
Last night, their shelter lost power due to the strong winds, but the volunteers are safe. When the tornado watch lifts, they’ll be able to start taking locals to shelters.
If you’d like to help the American Red Cross by donating blood, money, or your time, head to this website for more information.