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Disaster volunteers with Red Cross help Dundalk residents

September 24, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Barely 24 hours after returning from a massive water main break in Dundalk, Md., on Monday, Donna Beard said she was willing to go to Atlanta to help flooding victims there if needed.

That call didn't come.

A disaster volunteer with the American Red Cross chapter in Washington County since 2007, Beard spent last weekend in Dundalk, the Baltimore suburb where a 72-inch water line broke, flooding homes, streets and businesses.

She and fellow volunteer Tony Pirrone took the local chapter's Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) along with supplies and met with the Central Maryland chapter of the Red Cross at the scene Sept. 19, less than a day after the break.

"The call came at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 that we were to be deployed as mutual aid," said Mike Mowen, director of Red Cross disaster services in Washington County.

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Beard and Pirrone helped provide food and other items to the crews working at the scene and people displaced from their homes.

"I was handing out food, water and cleaning kits to residents -- a bucket with brooms, mops, gloves, trash bags, etc.," Beard said.

They took along a collection of stuffed animals for children or others traumatized by the flooding. Pirrone, 66, mentioned a child who was injured but managed to smile.

"I worked with a woman who was 70 years old or so and physically challenged," Beard said. That woman was so grateful to get a Red Cross blanket -- "you would have thought it was worth a million dollars."

In all, 4,000 meals were served, two shelters were opened, and 300 cleanup kits and 15,000 bottles of water were issued, Mowen said.

When it was time to head home, the two volunteers realized they had about 100 sandwiches left that would go to waste.

"So we took them to a park nearby and gave them away to homeless people," Beard said.

Pirrone said people came from everywhere when the ERV arrived in the park.

"They were so grateful," Pirrone said.

Beard , 52, became a volunteer after viewing Hurricane Katrina damage on television and realizing she wanted to help people in similar situations.

After a week of training at the Red Cross, Beard went to Beaumont, Texas, for her first deployment to another hurricane disaster area.

Pirrone was a firefighter/paramedic in Montgomery County, Md., for 24 years before moving to Washington County. In 2004, he began teaching first aid and became a disaster volunteer. He has been on five deployments.

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Information on becoming a disaster volunteer is available by calling 301-739-0717.

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