‘They lost everything’: Red Cross volunteer describes Ida’s aftermath

US & World

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Connecticut native Joe Apicelli has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for 16 years and has seen his fair share of natural disasters.

So when the time came for volunteers to deploy to the Gulf Coast ahead of Hurricane Ida’s arrival, the decision was a no brainer.

“People here are hurting,” Apicelli said. “These people here need everything. When I say they lost everything – they lost everything.”

He is one of 15 American Red Cross volunteers from Rhode Island and Connecticut who were sent to help those impacted by Ida, which is now on record as the fifth strongest storm to ever touch down in the United States.

Apicelli’s average day begins at 7 a.m., when he and his team begin loading up hundreds of meals that will be distributed amongst Louisiana’s most vulnerable communities.

Over the course of each day, Apicelli estimates they deliver approximately 250 meals.

“You go from one shelter to the next, then to the next,” Apicelli explained. “It’s kind of like a ping pong ball with the traffic and the power outages here, every intersection is dark.”

While a 12-to-14 hour day may seem long to some, Apicelli said he doesn’t mind putting in the work to help those who are struggling, especially since he first volunteered during the worst storm to ever hit the United States: Hurricane Katrina.

“That for me changed my whole life, being in the Astrodome,” Apicelli recalled. “When the Superdome had to evacuate – those 23,000 individuals were bussed, I remember the long lines of yellow school buses taking them to the Astrodome.”

For those wondering how they can help at home, Apicelli said there are a variety of ways.

“If you can make a monetary donation, that’s kind of a special thing, and something else I’ve learned that you could maybe consider donating is blood, because people here are hurting and blood is always a necessity,” he said.

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