Volunteers from the tri-state area geared up and made their way to the Gulf Coast to provide relief as Hurricane Isaac threatened Louisiana.
Organizations including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross have deployed teams of volunteers to help give out food and water, staff shelters and aid residents in any way that is needed. So far, the Red Cross has 1,500 volunteers on the ground including 33 from our area.
Among those volunteers are retired FDNY firefighters Gary Demry and Keith Ruby, who packed up a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle to make their way to Baton Rouge Louisiana Tuesday.
“I’ve been a city fireman for 20 years now, I’ve been retired, so this is just another way to give back to the community,” Ruby said as he and Demry got ready for their 24-hour long drive. “I just hope that we can help those who are going to be in need and who are in jeopardy down there and hopefully everything goes well down there.”
Even before Isaac was upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane there was a need for relief.
“On Sunday night we had 560 people who were staying in shelters,” said Josh Lockwood, CEO of the Red Cross New York Region. “The Red Cross is setting up hundreds of shelters in the gulf region right now. We are expecting thousands of people will need to be evacuated and will need our help and we’re assuming that we need a very robust response from Red Cross across the nation.”
Ruby and Demry will be aiding in providing food and water to disaster-stricken areas. For Demry, this is his fourth mission with the Red Cross since retiring from the FDNY. He said he never hesitates to take action in times of need.
"It was the humanitarian thing to do," Demry said. "You give a little, but you get a whole lot back in return.”
His years as a firefighter, he says, help him when he’s in disaster zones.
“Don’t panic. I’ve been trained to do many different things most people have no idea about, and I’m just passing it along a little bit,” Demry said.
Retired for eight years now, Ruby’s instincts as a firefighter still kick in when he's looking for the energy to keep going in the middle of an emergency situation.
“That’s almost like a fire department related thing because when you’re in an emergency situation adrenaline just completely takes over and keeps you moving at a pace that’s pretty consistent,” Ruby said.
Even in their retirement, Demry and Ruby say they continue to feel the need to aid the community and respond to emergency situations, wherever they might be.
“If I could just impact one person, put a smile on their face, maybe just to give them a lunch or whatever they might need on that particular one day, it would be worth the trip,” Ruby said.