Two Maryland Red Cross volunteers left for St. Louis yesterday in a big white rescue truck to help flood victims throughout the Midwest, where at least 22 lives have been lost.
Said Columbia's Jeff Pritchard: "This is what I've been trained to do. I'm expected to help people out."
Mr. Pritchard, a part-time paid Red Cross employee, and Bunni Martin-Young, currently between jobs in Odenton, will join a team of 17 Marylanders from the Central Maryland chapter of the Red Cross who are already aiding victims of the floods caused by the overflowing Mississippi River.
Members of the Red Cross's Disaster Action Team (DAT), the trained volunteers drove to St. Louis yesterday in a National Emergency Response Vehicle less than two days after receiving their assignment. They had not been told yesterday exactly what they would be doing, only that the work will last at least three weeks.
The vehicle holds up to 2 tons of food and beverages, which is equivalent to 400 meals.
Mrs. Martin-Young said that she was completely willing to leave for St. Louis on a day's notice.
"I prefer to be out in the field much more than anything," said Mrs. Martin-Young, a 15-year Red Cross veteran. "The work is hard but I'd much rather be out there sweaty, dirty, and feeding people than sitting behind a desk. I feel more useful."
Mr. Pritchard and Mrs. Martin-Young were selected from a nationwide list of 9,000 trained disaster relief workers. The national disaster services human resources list notes the training and qualifications of each relief worker.
Mr. Pritchard is trained in damage assessment and mass care, which involves interacting closely with disaster victims and distributing food. He said he was inspired to become a Red Cross volunteer after watching on television the devastating impact of Hurricane Andrew.
"When I just got out of college, I was thinking of summer jobs and trying to figure out what to do," said Mr. Pritchard.
Mrs. Martin-Young is an instructor in disaster services, a shelter manager and a specialist in mass care. When she lived in Massachusetts, she had a friend who was an active DAT team member who encouraged her to undergo training. She has assisted victims of Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Andrew and Central American refugees.
Both Mrs. Martin-Young and Mr. Pritchard volunteered to help American troops during the Persian Gulf War, feeding soldiers in Saudi Arabia.
During his weekly radio show yesterday, Gov. William Donald Schaefer asked each Maryland resident to donate $1 to a state-run relief fund for the flood victims. All funds collected will be distributed through the Red Cross for food, temporary shelter, clothing and medicine.
Donations to the Flood Relief Fund should be sent to Midwest Flood Victims, c/o Gov. William Donald Schaefer, State House, Annapolis 21401.