Humbling experience: Pawt. volunteer heads to help Matthew victims

A man walks across a road damaged by floodwaters caused by rain from Hurricane Matthew in Fayetteville, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — “It gives you great pause when you’re face to face with someone who has lost everything.”

Tempie Thompson, the executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Red Cross, is likely to face more of those victims this week, as she joins about 35 other volunteers from Rhode Island and Connecticut who have deployed to South Carolina to help in areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

Thompson will work with a volunteer hub, working with teams that are deploying and also pulling in other agencies and resources to send out and apply to tasks.

The Red Cross is in a massive sheltering initiative right now, spanning five states with nearly 7,000 people waking up in evacuation shelters each morning. Crews are having to use big vehicles, Thompson said, and “a lot of the roads are still closed — that’s why they need the larger vehicles to get to folks.

“It’s mainly sheltering and feeding at this point.”

It’s important for volunteers to stay positive, too, she said. “It’s about helping people rebuild and reclaim their communities, so — though it sounds a little cliched — you have to look to the end result, and help them get through the initial phase.”

If you’d like to donate to the Red Cross’s efforts, or volunteer, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or go to the organization’s website at