Iowans In Texas Help With Harvey Response

Sep 1, 2017

About 50 American Red Cross volunteers from Iowa are helping with the response to Hurricane Harvey. Many are working 12-hour days and will remain in Texas for the next two or three weeks.

Volunteer Michael Gee of Iowa City is a 31-year-old Navy hospital corpsman, and this is his first Red Cross deployment. Currently he's helping organize shelters in Austin for volunteers and refugees.

"Just you know, make coffee, provide food, provide for whatever their needs," he explains. "It’s kind of like running a bed and breakfast, expect the tenants are all sleeping next to each other on cots."

Evacuees rest at a shelter in Texas.
Credit American Red Cross

Arlene Prather-O’Kane of Cedar Falls is also on her first deployment. She's a retired registered nurse with 20 years' experience with the Black Hawk County Department of Public Health.

"I've always had a dream to be able to deploy for different crises and disasters," she says.

Prather-O’Kane is stationed at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston where thousands have taken shelter. She’s been assigned to assess the health needs of evacuees.  

"A lot of these people left with literally the clothes on their back. They didn’t bring their medications, they didn’t bring their medical supplies, those kinds of things," she says. "So we’re trying to help them with that for sure."

The recovery from Harvey is expected to last for months and the Red Cross is currently looking for more volunteers to provide emergency response in Texas and Louisiana.