David Littlefield, Allen Crabtree, and Carol Brown from the small town of Sebago, Maine are part of the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana.
Littlefield and Crabtree are two of a group of eight volunteers who were sent by the Southern Maine Chapter of the American Red Cross in early September for a three-week deployment in Louisiana. Littlefield has been assigned to shelter operations and posted to the Red Cross shelter in Houma, located down in the Louisiana Delta of the Mississippi River southwest of New Orleans. Crabtree has been assigned to Public Affairs as a writer and works out of the Headquarters complex in Baton Rouge.
Brown deployed individually and has been assigned to a Red Cross call center in Virginia where she is helping volunteers answer phone lines for people requesting emergency financial assistance or to donate to the Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts.
The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina is beyond comprehension. Whole towns have been destroyed and their residents displaced. The Hurricanes have caused severe flooding in New Orleans and numerous other areas in Louisiana and Mississippi. The American Red Cross has been on the ground from the day after the hurricanes smashed their way up from the Gulf of Mexico, and have set up shelters and mass feeding stations to provide relief to the residents affected. The Hurricane Katrina disaster relief operation is the largest that the American Red Cross has ever undertaken.
Brown is a veteran of other Red Cross disaster relief efforts and knew what to expect when she volunteered. Littlefield and Crabtree, however, were volunteering for the first time. They came equipped with their fire fighter and emergency medical training, but were not prepared for the daunting scope of the work that was necessary in their new Red Cross roles. Their first lesson as a Red Cross volunteer was to always stay flexible as needs change and individual roles and responsibilities adapt.
The Red Cross needs many different jobs done. All the jobs are important, and all make a difference in the life of storm victims. The jobs are also exhausting, both physically and mentally. The typical volunteer starts their day before light every morning, and don't end until long after lights are out at the shelters. It is usually midnight before they can crawl into their cots at one of the staff shelters and attempt to recharge their batteries before beginning it all over again the next day.
Reunion in the Louisiana Delta
Crabtree was on a story assignment to the delta on Sunday, September 25, and was able to meet with Littlefield at his shelter. Littlefield works closely with the survivors of Hurricane Katrina at a shelter set up for them at the Houma Civic Center. There are survivors here from New Orleans and the delta areas south of New Orleans, many of whom have lost their homes to flooding and high winds. He works a 12-hour day, 7-days a week, and is responsible for making sure that all 450 residents of the shelter have shower facilities available whenever they need it.
"When I showed up, David greeted me with a big grin and showed me around his domain," Crabtree said. "David and his partner Beverly Parker are responsible for making sure that the 400+ people at the shelter can get a shower whenever they want."
They have 8 showers set up in a "Cajun-style" shower enclosure made of PVC pipe, a large blue water storage tank and head-high white plastic curtains. There are also 4 showers in a hazardous materials trailer that clients can use. The whole assembly is connected to city hydrants with a maze of fire houses, valves and nozzles.
"We are open from 9:30 a.m. till 11:30 a.m., and then again from 2:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.," Littlefield said. "Right now the showers in the tent area are open for women, as well as two of the four showers in the trailer. The other two are open for men. Later, we'll change the mix so that everyone can shower whenever they want to."
Crabtree asked if Littlefield's training as a fire fighter with fire hoses and pumps qualified him for running this operation. "Looks pretty complicated to me. How can you be sure that you're not going to blow someone out of the shower with high pressure?"
"Don't worry. Everything is in the hands of a professional," he assured with a smile.
The three Maine volunteers will serve three weeks in their assignments, and will be coming home in October. They are doing valuable work helping the survivors of Hurricane Katrina and they will remember the gratitude of the people they helped in the affected areas forever.
This article was edited and published in the Bridgton News on September 29, 2005 under the title "Sebago residents assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts".
Last updated November 12, 2005
Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree
Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree