Local Red Cross heading to help Sandy victims

Jacksonville volunteers going north to help those affected by hurricane

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville branch of the American Red Cross on Tuesday morning sent two volunteers to the Northeast to help with the damage left by Hurricane Sandy.

They're headed to neighborhoods where people have lost power to pass out food and water and provide assistance.

The Red Cross assessed the damage Tuesday morning and put the volunteers on the road about 10 a.m. en route to New Jersey. The director said they were prepared to send up to 100 people to the Northeast region if necessary.

"People are hurting, but when they see us drive up, they know we're there to help, nothing else," eight-year volunteer Larry Lightfoot said. "They know we're there to help them."

Sandy could do an estimated $20 billion in economic damage, according to the latest statistics.

Red Cross crews were ready to go into those neighborhoods where homes have been flooded and power is out to provide whatever relief they possibly can.

Just like here in Florida after a hurricane, it may be a few days before power is restored to millions. So the volunteers will likely stay for an extended period of time.

The Red Cross is sending shelter workers, volunteers to pass out food, damage assessment experts and emergency response vehicle drivers. Some of those volunteers are cross-trained and provide assistance in various ways.

"The most we've sent is 100 people," local Red Cross spokeswoman Christian Smith said. "We have a database of 400, but it's all based on the needs of those impacted areas."

The Red Cross is expecting this to be a large operation because of the size of the storm and the damage it is seeing.

Lightfoot said it's always hard seeing people suffering, but being there for them is what keeps him volunteering.

"It's the greatest feeling in the world," he said.

Officials said this is also the time when they want to remind people here locally to donate their time as a volunteer or help financially. You can do either donate or volunteer through the Red Cross' website.

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