Record Number of Red Cross Volunteers Heading to Gulf

Members of the largest group of Red Cross volunteers ever to deploy from Savannah are getting ready for the mission of their lives. They'll spend the next three weeks helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Usually the Red Cross sends volunteers out in twos and threes, but because this is such a large-scale disaster, they're sending as many as they can all at once.

"We're giving you radios," disaster services director John Wright told the volunteers. "These have 14 channels and a radius of two miles."

Seven team leaders will direct a caravan of volunteers to Gulfport. Tonya Allen, who was just in training last week, has just learned she'll be one of them. She has only one mission in mind. "Just help people. That's it. That's all I'm there for is to be of service."

This is Karen Berkley-Kennedy's second trip to help the victims of Katrina. The first was with her husband the week the storm hit. "We were going to help some people and we picked some people up who needed to get to Covington and we gave them rides," she said.

This is the largest relief effort ever to deploy from the Savannah chapter of the American Red Cross, but then again, they've never responded to a disaster quite like Hurricane Katrina.

"We're working with a disaster that's covering 90,000 square miles," said Wright. "That's roughly the size of the United Kingdom. That calls for a lot of volunteers."

Volunteers willing to sacrifice three weeks of their time and do whatever they can to help. "Whatever is needed to take care of them," said volunteer John Summerville. "Whatever their needs are. Anything I can do or provide for them in any way to help them."

The volunteers leave early tomorrow morning from the Red Cross offices. The trip alone will take them 11 hours by van. They won't learn their assignments until they get to Gulfport, Mississippi.

There are several ways you can volunteer or help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. To find out more, visit our Relief and Recovery Appeal page.

Reported by: Liz Flynn,