DC, MD Red Cross Volunteers Join Mississippi Tornado Recovery Effort

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD — Local Red Cross volunteers are heading to Mississippi this week to assist the recovery effort after tornadoes tore through the Deep South over the weekend.

At least 25 people in Mississippi and a man in Alabama were killed by a string of tornadoes that are being described as the deadliest storm to pass through the region in more than a decade, according to the National Weather Service.

“The Red Cross has local chapters in Mississippi and Alabama, and we are supplementing their resources with a few of our trained volunteers from Maryland and the D.C. area,” said Curtis Luthye, executive director of the Red Cross of Montgomery, Howard and Frederick counties.

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Four volunteers from the D.C. metro region are already in Mississippi and dozens more are on standby if needed.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the incredible devastation,” Luthye said. “Our hearts go out to those that are affected, and that we’re definitely there as long as we are needed. We will continue to support the communities that were affected.”

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The volunteers will be distributing food and assisting anyone who may have lost durable medical equipment, eyeglasses, prescriptions and things like that.

“We are at the very beginning of relief operation and so right now we are primarily focused on the food, shelter, and some of those medical needs,” Luthye said.

Deployed Red Cross volunteers typically arrive at a disaster operations center set up by the local chapter, where they will receive their assignment.

“If they are working in the shelter, then they would be assigned to a shelter location, work a shift and then come off of that worksite,” Luthye said. “They’ll stay at a local hotel or even a staff shelter.”

Deployments can last up to two or three weeks. In some cases, a volunteer may return home and redeploy for another week or two.

“Depending on the disaster and what the disaster needs are, we do have folks that are skilled and have been trained in warehouse management,” Luthye said. “There’s always a need for people to come and volunteer. We can train somebody from zero to expert in any number of skills that can be helpful before, during and after a disaster.”

The Red Cross has between 5,000 to 6,000 volunteers across the entire D.C. metropolitan region. In Montgomery County, there were 914 volunteers in 2022, responding to 60 local disasters.

While relief efforts like the one in Mississippi highlight the work the Red Cross does nationally, local chapters like the one in Montgomery County provides assistance year-round.

The Red Cross has between 5,000 to 6,000 volunteers across the entire D.C. metropolitan region, according to Luthye. In Montgomery County, 914 volunteers responded to 60 local disasters.

Helping people displaced due to the recent Arrive apartment building fire in Silver Spring is an example of the type of local support Red Cross volunteers routinely provide. Anyone who wishes to learn more about volunteering with the Red Cross can visit the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region website.

Those wishing to help those affected by the storms in and around Mississippi can visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word TORNADO to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

All donations go toward helping the Red Cross prepare for, respond to and help those recovering from disasters around the country. To ensure that your donation helps people impacted by storms in Mississippi, visit redcross.org/donate and choose the option “Southern Tornadoes & Storms.”

The Associated Press contributed to the reporting of this story.

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