Two Red Cross volunteers left Long Island Tuesday bound for the stormy Gulf Coast, each taking turns at the wheel of an emergency response vehicle filled with snacks, bottled water and communications devices.
Susan Squillace, of Farmingdale, and Veronica O'Neil, of Valley Stream, will join six other Long Island volunteers already in the vicinity of New Orleans, said John Miller, chief executive of American Red Cross on Long Island.
"We have to be flexible for the next two weeks," said Squillace, a retired school psychologist. The drive is expected to take 22 hours.
Over their two-week deployment in and around Port Allen, La., she and O'Neil will respond as needed, doing shelter work or driving the vehicle around neighborhoods to give out food, water and cleanup kits, Squillace said.
They are part of a 35-person Red Cross contingent dispatched to Florida and Louisiana from the metropolitan area, Miller said, a group that includes those trained in shelter management, logistics and mental health. In all, 1,500 disaster workers have been deployed to the Gulf Coast, according to the Red Cross website.
This is the first disaster deployment for O'Neil, who also has a background in counseling and therapy, and served as a shelter manager in Suffolk County during Tropical Storm Irene last year. O'Neil said she and Squillace "have psychology in our blood, and we always want to help people."
Squillace said she was drawn to on-the-ground relief activity because her previous work kept her at a desk and she didn't always get to see the results. "In this role I get immediate feedback," she said.