Hagerstown women to help victims of wildfires

October 26, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

Two Hagerstown women will fly to California Saturday to help victims of the state's wildfires, said Mike Mowen, emergency services director of the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross.

Donna Beard, a retired health-care worker, plans to stay for three weeks, while Becky Hogamier, a Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene employee, said she will use her personal vacation time to volunteer for two weeks.

"I volunteered after Hurricane Katrina hit, and I was devastated by the loss and the sadness out there," Beard said. "I vowed to myself that I was going to help people for the rest of my life."

Beard is one of about 35 volunteers in Washington County who have been trained in disaster assistance and are on call with the Red Cross to provide services such as first aid, sheltering, feeding and emergency transportation, Mowen said.


Tuesday morning, when Mowen got word through the Red Cross disaster response system that volunteers in California were overwhelmed, he sent out a request to local volunteers, and Beard and Hogamier stepped up.

"With the number of people who are displaced, it's traumatic for those people," Mowen said.

The Red Cross is opening shelters, helping to feed those who have been displaced, and providing medical and mental health care, he said.

The volunteers' trip will be paid for through donations to the Red Cross, Mowen said, adding the organization is requesting donations to help with the relief effort.

Hogamier, who also volunteered after Hurricane Katrina, said there also is a need for additional volunteers.

"When you do this type of work, the burnout is so high," she said. "I could never stay there for a month without having some kind of side effects, physical and emotional. You really need to replenish your volunteers."

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