Rhode Island volunteers in Florida to help with Hurricane Michael relief

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Panama City, Fla. (WPRI) — As the people of the Florida Panhandle continue to clean up from Hurricane Michael, they are receiving help from some Rhode Island volunteers.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” American Red Cross Volunteer Elizabeth Duffy, of Providence, said about her time down in Florida. “It’s very rewarding. It’s hard work, but I love it.”

In September, Duffy volunteered in the Carolinas and Virginia for 14 days following Hurricane Florence. Weeks later, without hesitation, Duffy traveled to Panama City, Fla. to help the area as it deals with the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Matthew Hackman, of Warwick, also helped with Red Cross relief efforts in Florida. Last year, Hackman volunteered his time in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

“Rhode Island, right? A lot of coastal communities,” Hackman said. “I just can’t help but think what it would be like if it happened to us.”

Both Hackman and Duffy worked in reunification efforts in the Florida Panhandle — reuniting people who lost each other during the devastating storm.

“We look for missing people,” Duffy explained. “We follow the cases that are reported… People looking for other people they haven’t heard from since the storm.”

It has been three weeks since Hurricane Michael hit, and the work down south is ongoing. Both Duffy and Hackman said the best part of their work is meeting people who need assistance during this rebuilding process.

“They hold onto one another because that’s all they have now,” Duffy said.

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