21 Red Cross Volunteers Deploy

A volunteer loads a van.
A volunteer loads a van.

The Savannah chapter of the American Red Cross made history early this morning, sending more of its members to the Gulf Coast than the chapter has ever deployed. The crew will be gone for three weeks, and everyone on the trip except the group leader is a brand-new volunteer.

And they are excited. "If you have butterflies in your stomach, that's perfectly natural," disaster services director John Wright told them.

And nervous about making the trip to the storm-ravaged gulf coast. "We've served over 9 million meals to people in that area," said Wright.

All but one of the 21 volunteers making the 11-hour journey are brand new. "We see what was going on on TV, and the women and children, and that's what really made us want to do it," said volunteer Michelle Weber.

Best friends are cramming into vans, joining the largest Red Cross crew ever to deploy from Savannah. "If this was ever to happen to us, we would hope someone would do the same for us," said volunteer Amy Headrick.

Margie Standard, the experienced leader, gave some words of advice at the rally before taking off: "First off, I told them if you can't carry it and walk a mile, then you don't need to bring it."

So beside packing clothes, bug spray and sleeping bags, Standard did something else to prepare. "I used to have much longer hair," she said. "It was really hard to care for. So I went short and then I went shorter, so all I have to do is wet it, put soap in it and rinse it, cause that's the least of my worries now, my hair."

The hardest part for the volunteers came as the buses were being loaded--saying good bye to their loved ones. But as soon as they hit the road, the nervous excitement spilled out the windows and this group was ready.

Today the Red Cross also began training between 40 and 60 new volunteers who will be deployed to the Gulf Coast next week in an even bigger group.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com