Brand new RI Red Cross volunteers rush to help Irma victims

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Damaging storms have been barreling across U.S. territories at a furious pace the past few weeks. Maria and Jose were preceded by Irma just a week and a half ago, and Irma’s impact on Florida will be devastating for a long time — even though concerns keep funneling to the newest, most pressing storm.

Five brand new volunteers from the Rhode Island chapter of the American Red Cross set out Thursday morning, taking emergency response vehicles to Florida’s hardest-hit areas to give physical and emotional support to the people now trying to rebuild their lives. The five new volunteers were trained in rapid sessions that sprang up following the damage of Hurricane Harvey, and are joining colleagues from Connecticut’s Red Cross chapter.

The group gathered at Warwick’s Fire Dispatch center on Sandy Lane in the wee hours before rolling out.

Joey Kraus, who’s from Warwick, said this was his first assignment as a Red Cross volunteer, and was ready to hit the ground running.

“We’re going to be going down to Ground Zero,” he said. “Where people have no electricity, but they’re still there, trying to fix up their homes and doing what they can. We’re going to be there to provide them with food and any sort of assistance we can possibly provide them.”

Though Kraus was excited to be helping, his attitude could easily evolve to that of Sal Covais’s.

Covais is also from Warwick, and just returned from a two-week Red Cross deployment to Florida.

“It was rough,” he said of walking the grounds and being immersed in the damage and wreckage.

But dozens of residents were grateful.

“[They were] thanking me for my service,” he said. “Thanking me for what I was doing down there. And that was a really great feeling to have.”

The volunteers will now spend the next two weeks in Florida lending aid.

Kraus said he couldn’t wait to help people.

“For me to actually see it, be involved with it and be part of the story instead of watching the story is going to be a great thing,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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