Red Cross deploys Rhode Islanders to help Irma victims

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The American Red Cross is deploying Rhode Islanders to Florida for Hurricane Irma relief just as it did to Texas for Hurricane Harvey.

The Red Cross in Providence says dozens signed up to be volunteers after seeing the devastation in Texas.

“It’s hardest job you’ll ever love,” Red Cross volunteer Ken Wadland said Monday.

Wadland is heading to Florida to help with the Irma recovery.

“I’ve always had the attitude you have to give back,” he added. “Back when I had a career, I had no time but I had money, so I donated money. Now I’m retired, I have no money but I’ve got lots of time.”

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Wadland has a unique assignment, which is to make sure the Red Cross volunteers and staff in disaster areas have internet access.

“If we don’t have cell phone access, then we have the ability to put up satellite dishes and connect to digital satellite to give us a hot spot,” Wadland explained.

He says internet access is crucial for volunteers because it allows them to order supplies and food, mark people as “safe” in the Red Cross database, and to communicate with others.

Wadland is also a member of a subgroup of Red Cross volunteers called the DOVES, or Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees. The DOVES are people who live in their RVs and bring them to help in disaster zones.

He opted not to drive his motor home to Florida because of the rough conditions, and will be flying to Tallahassee instead.

The Red Cross has seen a spike in volunteers since Hurricane Harvey and is now deploying people to areas impacted by Irma.

“I think giving back is what compels me to be here today,” said Gordon Morro from Johnston. He signed up to volunteer on Monday.

After a bit of training, Morro hopes to be deployed too.

“I can go for as long as I need to go,” he said. “So if it’s a month, so be it.”

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