VENICE, F.L. (WROC) — Hundreds of volunteers from the American Red Cross have made their way to Florida to assist with relief from Hurricane Ian.

Roughly two dozen from western New York are on the ground. News 8 spoke with a volunteer from the Rochester area, who is spending the next few weeks at a shelter in Venice, Florida.

While food and water remain scarce there, there’s a strong goal to offer comfort and to connect victims with their loved ones.

In the days that have followed Hurricane Ian’s destruction, volunteers with the American Red Cross are still watching rescues take place.

“They’re still finding people and they’re still bringing people in,” said Debbie Thompson, a Red Cross volunteer from Rochester.

Thompson began her volunteer efforts in Florida over the weekend. Many of the shelters the Red Cross oversees exist in schools, which are looking to reopen.

Thompson says the hundreds of people staying at her shelter have already been moved once or twice and will have to relocate again this week.

“These people have no water. All the grocery stores are out of items. There’s no fresh fruit, no milk, no eggs, no bread. The shelter supervisor for the shelter itself has to go out and purchase things, and they’re having a hard time finding the supplies because they’re just few and far between,” said Thompson.

Thompson says people are still in shock and says many are still trying to connect with loved ones.

“If you can’t find your parents or grandparents if you’ve had no contact — chances are their phones have been lost. If they get in touch with the Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, we do have reunification on the ground here,” said Thompson.

As communities work to rebuild, Thompson says their work is far from over.

“These needs are going to be long-term. There’s a lot of elderly here and they’re confused. They know a storm hit, but they’re still in shock. Some of them are just sitting on their cots just staring. They don’t know what to do,” said Thompson.

Thompson anticipates she’ll be in Florida a few more weeks before heading back to Rochester.
She plans to go south again soon, as relief is expected to continue into late December at least.

News 8 is partnering with the Red Cross for a telethon Friday to benefit those impacted by Ian from 4 to 6:30 p.m.