Minnesota Red Cross volunteers join Hurricane Florence relief effort

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As officials in the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. prepare for the impacts of the storm, more than a couple dozen Red Cross volunteers from Minnesota are ready to lend a hand to anyone in need.

One of those volunteers is Judy Schotzko, a busy retiree who’s eager to help.

“I keep my RN license up so I can still volunteer with the Red Cross,” she said. “I’ve gone to three hurricanes – Katrina, Sandy, Harvey - and I’ll go out tomorrow.”

Involved in several Red Cross relief efforts, Schotzko considers this her calling.

“It’s one of the things I can do as a nurse,” Schotzko said.

Phil Hansen, CEO of the Minnesota Red Cross, said that when he worked the Irma operation “leadership people from around the country were coming to me and saying to me, ‘can you please send us more Minnesotans.’ They said, 'Minnesotans work hard, they’re dedicated, they’re tremendous volunteers and they’re really, really nice.'” 

Already, 30 Minnesota volunteers have deployed to the southeast coastline as Hurricane Florence - a massive Category 4 storm - is expected to make landfall Friday.

“In the area of the states that are potentially affected plus the neighboring states around it, we’re actually getting relief supplies and equipment stationed there so that we can quickly move that into the area when the event happens,” Hansen said.

People in both Carolinas and Virgina have been told to evacuate, and more than one million people are expected to heed the mandatory call.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence and urged residents to prepare.

“We know that there will be flooding, heavy rain and wind and likely power outages,” Mayor Bowser said.

Meanwhile, trained and experienced volunteers like Schotzko pack their bags to be where comfort and care is needed most.

“We’re there to give people compassion and care and to let them know they’re not forgotten,”Schotzko said. “This is a thankful job and it’s very rewarding.”

Only volunteers who've already gone through training at the Red Cross will be sent out. They're also asking for people to consider donating blood as a part of the relief effort.