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Area volunteers head to N.D.

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

The American Red Cross of Lee County is deploying local mental health workers to parts of North Dakota ravaged by flooding.
Residents of Fargo, N.D., and other parts of the Red River Valley are bracing for unprecedented floods as a result of melting snow and ice.
The National Weather Service has released a number of flood warnings for counties across the state, and citizens have been filling and stacking thousands of sand bags in an attempt to keep the water contained.
Colin Downey, spokesperson for the local American Red Cross chapter, said four mental health workers — Betty Conley, Dr. Howard Harrison, Dr. Elizabeth Harrison and Ron Saberton — were en route Thursday afternoon.
He said American Red Cross deployments typically last two to three weeks so it is difficult to estimate how long the group will stay in North Dakota.
“Floods like this tend to be more drawn out so obviously this far it’s difficult to put a time frame on it,” said Downey.
Red Cross chapters across the United States have mobilized volunteers and services to aid in flooded areas. Wednesday the organization sent out 298 volunteers, 20 emergency response vehicles, 55,200 ready-to-eat meals, 1,800 cleanup kits and thousands of other packets including blankets and cots.
Volunteers from Lee County will serve as counselors for those affected by flooding, said Downey, working as much as 20 hours a day.
“Counseling is a big part of what the Red Cross does to help in this type of situation,” he said. “Sometimes this is the worst time in someone’s life and a Red Cross mental health worker is well suited to help deal with it.”
Health services also include assisting residents of North Dakota to pay for medical expenses and other health-oriented financial obligations.
Over the deployment volunteers will update the Red Cross on what is happening throughout North Dakota, employing online programs such as Twitter.
“I am going to contact them periodically and tweet that way,” said Downey. “When I get those communications I will follow through with those updates.”
The Red Cross Web site (www.arclcc.org) has up-to-date information on the disaster relief and videos from volunteers in the field. The site also includes periodic tweets from the field.