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Three SLC residents help with Hurricane Isaac relief efforts

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POTSDAM - Three St. Lawrence County residents have deployed to the Gulf Coast to assist with Hurricane Isaac disaster relief efforts.

Timothy J. Schwob, Potsdam; Gary B. Coffey, Hermon; and Janet O. Wakefield, Gouverneur; are the only three north country residents trained properly to be deployed to national Red Cross disasters. Each of them left St. Lawrence County late last week.

“Just because they’re sent specifically to Florida doesn’t mean they’ll stay there,” according to Kelly E. Hecker, Red Cross of Northern New York’s emergency services manager. “It’s where immediate need is.”

Mr. Schwob and Mr. Coffey were sent to Florida, while Mrs. Wakefield was sent to Alabama.

“It’s really hard work and fantastically rewarding,” Mr. Schwob said when reached by telephone Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “From my experience, when communities are hit hard, they really do come together. If they need help from us, we can provide that.”

The former SUNY Potsdam professor said since there was minimal rain when he arrived Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla., he was transferred to the nation’s capital the day after to help lead liaison operations. His job typically would involve working in the field, acting as a liaison between the Red Cross and any agencies that seek to also provide disaster relief.

Mr. Coffey and Mrs. Wakefield offer disaster mental health services.

“It’s traumatic during a disaster, so those two will help with counseling in the shelter system,” Mrs. Hecker said.

Mr. Coffey and Mrs. Wakefield will be on two-week deployments, while Mr. Schwob will be on a three-week deployment, the maximum time required.

The Red Cross provides transportation to the disaster site and shelter once volunteers arrive.

The three St. Lawrence County volunteers are a part of a group of 38 from the Red Cross’s Central New York Region who have been deployed since Hurricane Isaac struck the Florida Keys Sunday, when it was still a tropical storm. It has later became a category-one hurricane with winds at 75 miles per hour, and has brought storms to Florida, Louisiana and Alabama, according to the Weather Channel. It’s projected path may reach as far north as Ohio and Michigan.

Mrs. Wakefield, Mr. Coffey and Mr. Schwob will check in with both the national and local American Red Cross. While they may deploy for two or three weeks at a time, they can volunteer for another deployment, depending on the need in the national Red Cross volunteer data base.

More volunteers who are available for national disaster relief are needed, Mrs. Hecker said. For more information, call her at the local Red Cross office at 782-4410.

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