Iowa Red Cross volunteers assist Louisiana flood clean up

Eight volunteers joining existing 11

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Another round of Iowa Red Cross volunteers is headed to southern Louisiana today to join the 11 Iowa volunteers already assisting flood cleanup since last week.

Eight more Red Cross workers — including one volunteer from Alburnett and another from Vinton — are joining the disaster response.

Since flooding began, the Red Cross set up more than 50 shelters to provide safety and basic needs for more than 10,000 people, according to a news release from the Iowa Red Cross.

Joe Vich, 68, of Waterloo, drove to Baton Rouge last week in a Red Cross emergency response vehicle with Rod Hamer of Cedar Falls.

Vich said he, Hamer and Dave Tolander, also from Iowa, are trained disaster response volunteers and have used the van they drove down to Louisiana to serve 700 to 800 meals to Baton Rouge residents.

The group works six square blocks on one of the 28 routes throughout Baton Rouge neighborhoods, receiving the meals they serve from one of the many mobile kitchens run by Southern Baptist Men’s Ministry, which has served nearly 7,000 meals, Vich said.

Since the onset of the flooding, the Red Cross and partners have served more than 200,000 meals and snacks and distributed more than 32,000 relief items, according to the news release.

“The impact is certainly similar to what we experienced in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo in 2008, but a much broader area and much more damage than we experienced,” Vich said. He said Baton Rouge is full of furniture sitting on lawns and damaged drywall is removed as houses are cleaned after flood damage. Abandoned cars sit on streets covered in grime after the dirty floodwaters that covered them receded

“You really count your blessings when you see what these folks,” he said.

“It makes you happy that you have the ability to give some time. We’ve had help in Iowa at times when we’ve had these disasters. It’s nice that we can provide some help also.”

Vich, who will be volunteering in Baton Rouge at least until the end of August, said he wants Iowans to know their time and money help the thousands in need in Louisiana.

“This is going to be a very, very expensive relief,” Vich said. “A donation would really help the Red Cross ensure that they can fund this and be prepared for the next one.”

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