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Lawton volunteers prepare for trip to Texas to help Ike victims

Lawton_The Great Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross is doing its part to help victims of Hurricane Ike.  Five volunteers are on their way to Texas after President Bush called for their help.  1,000 out-of-state Red Cross workers answered the call and are on their way. 

The volunteers won't know exactly where their help is needed until they get there, but they could be serving food, setting up and consolidating shelters, or a variety of efforts.  They do know that they will be able to give comfort to the millions affected by the storm. 

On Tuesday, Lawton's Red Cross was busy packing up towels, soap, and other toiletries - items Ike evacuees may not have.  Interim Director Cindy Nickell says it's Lawton's opportunity to give back.  "These folks that are going out to assist are part of the same system of the people that went out and assisted Lawton last year with the floods," she said.  This particular situation is unique for the volunteers.  "It's kind of a payback time," said Nickell.  "They're volunteering their time to assist others that are having a time of need, much like Lawton did last year."

The volunteers say they're ready, and just last week they went through training at Lawton's American Red Cross to prepare for this sort of emergency.  "We had disaster training and shelter training," said volunteer Angelica Doster.  "We had training last week and we prepared ourselves for this, we've been ready to go.  The people just need our help, so we're just ready."  To date, the volunteers have served millions of meals, set up well over 100 shelters, and given comfort to those in need.

The volunteers say it's worth it.  They say their work gives them a feeling that words cannot effectively describe.  "You get such fulfillment out of it," said volunteer Billie Jo Anderson.  "You help so many people in need, and just the feeling you get from that is really wonderful.  You have to have the heart of a volunteer to do it, too - not for the money - for the volunteering."

The three volunteers are heading to Texas and will serve at shelters in Dallas.  They plan on staying for about two weeks.  They are part of the Americorps program, which is essentially a domestic Peace Corps. 

The Nation's Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is depleted, and they are currently borrowing money to cover the costs of the hurricane assistance for this year.  If you would like to donate to the Red Cross, please visit their website at or donate locally by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

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