A number of volunteers from the Rochester/Finger Lakes region are aiding in disaster relief

Jerry Lalonde and Beth Thomas raided the Henrietta BJ’s Wholesale Club Monday — filling an American Red Cross Disaster Relief truck with 1,200 pounds of bottled water and piled-high boxes of snacks too numerous to count.

Lalonde, of Naples, and Thomas, of South Bristol, were on the first leg of a 20-hour drive south to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where the supplies will go to victims of Hurricane Harvey. Harvey hit Texas late Friday with violent winds and rain that flooded over hundreds of miles with more rain to come.

Lalonde said their truck matches 325 other such Red Cross disaster relief vehicles across the country, “most on their way to Texas and Louisiana.” Each truck works out of a field kitchen that provides between 10,000 and 12,000 meals a day, he said. Their truck, like others, will take food to shelters and can deliver 500 meals at a time.

As of mid-day Monday, some areas around Baton Rouge had seen almost 10 inches of rain and Harvey is expected to continue soaking the region into mid-week, while spawning a few tornadoes. Lalonde, an experienced disaster relief volunteer and Red Cross team leader, said they will provide support wherever they can over the next few weeks. The vehicle will be able to drive into new areas where possible as the water recedes.

Thomas, a retired teacher in Victor who helped in relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, said she is ready to do whatever she can.

Jay Bonafede is chief communications officer for the Western and Central New York region of the American Red Cross. At mid-day Monday, he was getting a flood of new information about volunteers whose numbers had reached 41 with more expected to sign on from the region. All volunteers are trained. Some are going south in land vehicles, others by air.

The focus now is on running the shelters, Bonafede said. Volunteers do any number of duties such as cleaning, setting up cots, bringing in supplies, helping with food and other necessities. Specially trained volunteers offer services related to mental health and other needs.

Bonafede and others in relief organizations such as the Salvation Army urged people to donate money as funds will help meet expenses toward disaster relief. Envoy James Brennan, officer at the Salvation Army in Canandaigua, said the best way the average citizen can help is to donate. “We have boots on the ground,” he said of the Salvation Army’s response. Even small donations make a big difference, he said.

People in the area are also concerned for friends and loved one affected by Harvey. Brie Crooks of Stanley has friends hit by Harvey.

“It has been such a struggle for the friends in Texas,” she said. “Some are lucky enough to have a place to go,” she said — adding others do not.

“What has been amazing is seeing all of the posts of people trying to help,” said Crooks, who posted a message from a friend on the Canandaigua 2020 Facebook page who sought a place to stay in the Canandaigua area. The friend and her husband were supposed to go home to Texas this week, but their home in Houston was flooded. They needed somewhere short term to stay until they could assess the damage. Not long after Crooks posted this, the couple (along with their two dachshunds) had a place to stay — an offer to stay in a furnished apartment in Canandaigua at a discounted rate.

“Our community is amazing,” said Crooks.

In Honeoye, Steve Barhoorn said his cousin, Carey Watkins Murray, and her family live in Spring, Texas, roughly 30 miles north of Houston. Exchanging private messages via Facebook with Murray, Barnhoorn said she reported on Monday that they “are trapped for the time being but they have plenty of food and water. The roads are closed all around them. For now, they are riding the storm out.”

Barnhoorn recalled visiting Murray in August 2003, and the weather that week was great in Texas but he received multiple emails from family and friends back home about flooding in Honeoye. “My home was not affected but when I got home a week after the heavy rainfall, the grass was high and the ground saturated. Small problems compared to what my cousin is going through right now,” he said.

 

How to help

Want to donate to the relief effort? Contact the following organizations:

American Red Cross: https://www.nvoad.org; 1-800-RED CROSS; or text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster: https://www.nvoad.org

Salvation Army: Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY; text "STORM" to 51555; or donate online at http://helpsalvationarmy.org