Local Red Cross volunteers head to Florida

October 10, 2018 06:24 PM

Harry Oettinger has been volunteering with the American Red Cross since 2005. Less than 24 hours after getting a call his help would be needed in Florida as Hurricane Michael hits the Panhandle, Oettinger was checking in for his flight from Albany to Orlando.

"People are washed out of their homes. They have no place to go, no place to get food even. It's just, I like to get down there as soon as possible to give them immediate help," said Oettinger.

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A retired police officer, Oettinger has deployed for disasters like wildfires, floods and multiple hurricanes. Last year he was in Texas to help with efforts following Hurricane Harvey.

"I'm usually assigned to shelters and so I get food out to people and make sure people are safe and they're taken care of," said Oettinger.

The Red Cross Eastern New York Chapter has about 1800 active volunteers on their roster. Seventy of them deployed to the Carolinas to help with Hurricane Florence efforts. Immediately followed by several major fires in Albany, it's been a busy season for everyone.

"People really do get the Rede Cross spirit in the them and I think they're, we're very fortunate that they're so willing to give their time and energy here at home and then across the country when big things happen," said Kimmy Venter of the Red Cross.

While the magnitude of why they're responding can sometimes be overwhelming, Oeetinger says he'll never think twice about answering the call.

"The hardships the volunteers go through are nothing compared to the hardships that the people who need help are going through," he said. "I'm very close with my family. I'll miss my family. I'm gonna miss the beautiful fall foliage but you help when you can."


Jacquie Slater

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