While Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida panhandle and crept north Wednesday and Thursday, Good Samaritans from the Akron area headed south toward the heart of the storm.
On Wednesday, a group of volunteers from the American Red Cross of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties left Akron-Canton Airport for Florida to help with recovery efforts.
Copley resident Cameron Fraser — who joined Harry Pierdomenico of Stow, Tom Quinn of Wadsworth and Teresa Greenlief, a former firefighter who lives in Cuyahoga Falls, on the relief mission — told Channel 19 news that he had returned five days before from helping North Carolina victims of Hurricane Florence, but was eager to volunteer again.
Pierdomenico and Quinn said they both find personal satisfaction from volunteering.
“There’s gratification both in the people that are doing the service and also the people that are receiving the service,” Pierdomenico said. It was his first deployment as a Red Cross volunteer.
Jim McIntyre, regional communications officer for NEO Red Cross, said the group landed in Orlando on Wednesday, where they were to be given assignments in affected areas.
In a phone interview, McIntyre said that he tried to reach one of the team late Thursday morning, but was unable to make contact.
McIntyre praised the volunteers, who will likely be deployed for a two-week assignment. Like Fraser, Greenlief had just returned from helping Hurricane Florence victims.
Before joining the Red Cross, “I didn’t know that there were people” so committed to helping others, McIntyre said.
The Akron-area team won’t have it easy, either, he said. They sleep on cots like the people they’re helping and eat the same food.
“The majority of the time, our volunteers are staying in staff shelters,” McIntyre said.
The four who left Wednesday will be helping hurricane victims in shelters and providing meals and other assistance. Two other Akron area volunteers from the Red Cross will also be in the affected area, including Wadsworth resident Dennis Gerencher. McIntyre said Gerencher’s deployment area and the name of the other volunteer were not immediately available.
Nancy Janice, executive director for the Summit, Portage, Medina Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross, said the organization depends heavily on volunteers.
“Ninety percent of our humanitarian work is done by volunteers,” Janice said. She called the Akron-area team “amazing.”
Ohio Task Force 1, an emergency rescue service based in Dayton, departed from Ohio on Tuesday to help Alabama residents recover from the storm. The Task Force arrived at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., but flew to Panama City on Thursday morning to help with recovery efforts there.
A 16-member team that specializes in water rescue will assist in Panama City, while an additional three members are deployed in the Pensacola area to help with recovery efforts.
Brian Harding, a Bainbridge resident and lieutenant in the Bedford Fire Department, was among the Northeast Ohio residents deployed. He also helped with Hurricane Florence relief efforts.
The Ohio Electric subsidiary of Akron-based FirstEnergy will also help with recovery in the hurricane zone.
FirstEnergy spokeswoman Lauren Siburkis said that about 100 line workers and support personnel from Ohio left for Georgia on Wednesday to assist Georgia Power with electric power restorations. FirstEnergy is part of an electric utility mutual-assistance group that helps member utilities in areas affected by large-scale power outages.
Siburkis said that the workers from Ohio spent the night in Knoxville, Tenn., and will continue their trek to Georgia when it’s safe to do so. About 500,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama and Georgia were without power Thursday, according to news reports. At least six deaths were blamed on the hurricane.
Sibukis said it will take “days” for Georgia Power to assess the damage and determine where the Ohio contingent will be assigned.
The Akron utility said it was prepared to send more people, if needed.
Alan Ashworth is a Beacon Journal news editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3859.