KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Northeast Tennessee American Red Cross Executive Director Heather Carbajal told News Channel 11 Friday that the organization recently received the O.K. to send volunteers to Hawaii.
A series of fires have swept through Hawaii in the past few weeks, leading to evacuations, widespread damage and more than 100 deaths.
Carbajal said it’s not normal for Red Cross branch to wait this long to respond to disasters.
“Typically when a disaster happens, Tennessee is one of the very first states in the nation to start sending responders out wherever they need to go,” said Carbajal. “But this time, we had two disasters happening in our own state. We had flooding in West Tennessee, and then we had that series of storms that swept across the state. So, we had to really focus on taking care of Tennesseans first.”
As of Friday, there are more than 300 Red Cross workers in Hawaii, and Carbajal will soon be one of them. She will be there for three weeks and is working to get together all of her last-minute things.
“We know that we are going into a devastating operation,” said Carbajal. “And making sure the people that we’re sending, myself included, are in a place where they’re ready for that. As ready as you can be.”
Her assignment is to be an elected official liaison. She said this is the first mission in a while that she will be doing fieldwork.
Carbajal said for those who want to help, monetary donations are more needed at the moment than items.
“Especially in an area like [Northeast Tennessee], people have such generous, giving hearts,” said Carbajal. “And anytime there’s a crisis, it’s immediately thinking through, ‘what can I do to help?’…However, in disaster responses, especially one that is as far away as Hawaii, the cost to store and ship those items really just isn’t feasible.”
Find out how to volunteer and donate to the American Red Cross here.