Rhode Island Hurricane Heroes

By: Kendall Trenchard, American Red Cross

We are counting down the days to the 13th Annual Red Cross Heroes Ball on March 3, 2018 in Hartford, Connecticut. This year, we will be honoring heroes of the 2017 hurricane season. Check out the story of two of those heroes, Deb and Jim Moroney.

As we reflect on the 2017 hurricane season, it is important to recognize those who devoted their time and effort to providing relief and support to those affected. The

Jim and Deb
Rhode Island volunteers Deb and Jim Moroney inside a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle as they prepared to leave on their first deployment to Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

success of American Red Cross relief efforts is largely built on the generosity and dedication of our volunteers. Deb and Jim Moroney, a couple from Rhode Island, epitomize what it means to be volunteers for the Red Cross.

Deb and Jim decided to volunteer after seeing a commercial for the Red Cross on TV. They are both retired, and wanted to devote their free time to giving back. With a high demand for volunteers during the 2017 hurricane season, they felt this was a great opportunity to volunteer, and decided to join the Red Cross in providing relief efforts for hurricane Irma, in Florida.

Initially, Deb and Jim were both nervous and excited about their deployment, not knowing what to expect from the experience. “We both felt that traveling together made the transition easier, and more enjoyable,” said Deb. Both Deb and Jim felt they were truly a part of the experience, but were grateful to not have endured any hardship during their trip. They quickly learned the amount of hard work that goes into volunteering, as they were constantly working to distribute food and supplies. The couple enjoyed the opportunity to drive a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle to distribute supplies. “We loved driving and working in the warehouse. We got to experience so much and meet a lot of great volunteers and people along the way,” said Deb.

Both Deb and Jim spoke about some of their memorable experiences with residents. During their trip, the couple met a woman named Lorena, who had two young boys. They explain,

“The family had arrived late one of the day’s we were distributing supplies. At this point in the day, we did not have many supplies left to give the family,” In speaking to her, they promised to return tomorrow to provide supplies to her family. As the next day was coming to a close, they realized Lorena had not returned. While traveling back to the warehouse, Deb and Jim were at a stoplight, and heard a knock on their window. “We realized it was Lorena, standing in the middle of the street, so we pulled over to take down her information,” she said. “We asked her what her family needed, and told her to meet us in the same spot, so they could return from the warehouse and provide her with the supplies.” When they returned with the supplies, they found Lorena waiting for them. “She hugged us both, telling us that she was also originally from Rhode Island, and that we inspired her to become a volunteer as well. Sharing this moment with Lorena was emotional and inspiring, I believe that this is how so many of the Red Cross volunteers end up joining.”

The couple shared another heart-warming memory, which truly illustrates the significance of Red Cross volunteers. One day, the couple was in a neighborhood that was heavily affected by the storm. Deb described how they saw an ice cream truck following their ERV down the road.

“I found it so odd to see an ice cream truck in this neighborhood, knowing it was nearly impossible to have a working ice cream truck there so soon after the storm. I started noticing a crowd of children running in our direction. I assumed they were running for the ice cream truck, but realized they were actually running toward our Red Cross vehicle,” she said. Seeing the children running toward them, knowing they were there to help them, had a very powerful impact on the couple. This story, along with the other memories they gained, established their love of volunteering.

Deb and Jim both enjoyed the hard work that came with providing disaster relief. Despite the heat, neither felt that they faced any challenges during their travels.

After such a positive first experience, both Deb and Jim are looking to volunteer again in the future. They emphasized their comfort in deploying together, and promoted the idea of couples traveling and volunteering together, as they found it to be incredibly fulfilling.

“When reaching out to couples, one phone call can get two volunteers,” Deb said, “This makes the process easier and allows couples to experience the deployment together.”

Throughout their experience, Deb and Jim constantly felt a sense of teamwork and a sense of community. They both thoroughly enjoyed the people they worked with and felt everyone was working to help one another. The experiences Deb and Jim had during their first deployment are both inspiring and influential. They serve as a testament to the hard work, devotion, and passion that coincide with volunteering for the Red Cross. Our ability to provide widespread support and relief to people in need largely relies on the dedication of volunteers. Deb and Jim’s deployment experience embody the significance and gratitude that come with working for the American Red Cross.

If you are interested in joining Deb and Jim in becoming a Red Cross volunteer, visit redcross.org/ri. If you are interested in learning more about this year’s Red Cross Heroes ball, visit: redcross.org/redcrossball.

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