Utah Red Cross arrives in Florida to help with disaster relief
FORT MEYERS, Fla. — The head of Utah’s Red Cross is in Florida Sunday night, helping in the long recovery ahead.
Heidi Ruster is now CEO of the Red Cross of the Nevada and Utah region, and she also held that same job in Fort Myers for seven years before heading out West.
“It’s heartbreaking too to see all the damage and to see people in a really tough emotional spot right now, so just trying our best to really address where individuals are at and how we can best support them moving forward,” Ruster said.
She’s helping where she can, talking Sunday with a shelter manager at South Fort Myers High School, which is now a Red Cross Shelter. There are about 225 people staying at the school, and the number is growing as more people are rescued.
“I spent the morning in the shelter where my son graduated high school,” Ruster said.
While volunteers like her come from all over, people like shelter manager Ross Hollander depend on the help in his community, where the demand is growing as more and more people are rescued.
“We’ve tripled our staff in two days,” Hollander explained. “We started with one yesterday and then to three and then to five, and now we’re close to 40 people in there.”
A tough job made easier through the many. Ruster focuses on working with local leaders as a government liaison in Fort Meyers.
“A couple of them I’ve talked to they’re like, ‘I haven’t been home yet,” Ruster said.
Their job can be overwhelming, with so much work yet to be done. Ruster is there to offer as much support as the Red Cross can provide.
“They’re tired, and they’ve been working 24 hours a day,” she said.
But with so many people pitching in, they’ll all get through it.
“And others would do the same for me,” Ruster said.
It’s a long road to recovery for residents in Florida.
Volunteers are running the shelter here with no water pressure. Clients are using porta potties along with portable showers.
Ruster said she will be here for at least two weeks, possibly longer.
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