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New Rochelle Volunteer Heads to Hurricane

Corrine Gaunes will be driving one of the Red Cross's emergency response vehicles.

Corrine Gaunes keeps a bag packed, so she's ready to go.

The retired, life-long New Rochelle resident will be grabbing that bag Tuesday and heading to Port Allen, LA, which is being threatened by a hurricane.

Gaunes is a volunteer with the American Red Cross Greater New York Region. She was sent to Mississippi in the aftermath of a hurricane a few years ago and has responded to a number of fires in the region.

Gaunes said she isn't someone who can sit and watch television all day. She wants to be busy.

"It gives me pleasure helping people," Gaunes said. "I started years ago in my community when we had a place in New Rochelle and we would distribute surplus food to some families."

For this trip, due to Hurricane Isaac which seems to be headed to the New Orleans area, Gaunes will be driving one of the Red Cross's emergency rescue vehicles, along with one other person.

"It's used to distribute food and so forth," she said. "If people have been flooded out, we can provide blankets and comfort kits to people."

Besides the good feeling she gets giving back to her community, Gaunes said volunteering keeps her young.

"It keeps you active," she said. "I like to be out and about. This keeps you healthy and physically fit."

And Gaunes would definitely encourage others to volunteer at the Red Cross.

"People say, 'I'm bored,' " she said. "I say I know a place where you can help."

Red Cross disaster workers are preparing to open evacuation shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. As of Monday, the organization has deployed more than 1,500 disaster workers across the Gulf Coast and sheltered hundreds of people in Florida.

The Red Cross opened 22 shelters and supported 20 community shelters so far. More than 150 emergency response vehicles have been activated from around the country.

Abigail Adams, communications officer, said the volunteers are trained to hit the ground running when disasters happen.

"They have invested a lot of time into the Red Cross," she said. "When a disaster hits, we identify the needs," pooling resources from around the country.

"It's kind of amazing," Adams said of the mobilization effort that occurs when something like a hurricane is imminent.

"It's like a whole new company has been set up," she said.

Adams said that the most important thing, besides having a dedicated volunteer base, was having resources ready for any contingency.

"Then you are acting from a position of strength rather than from panic," she said. "Being prepared empowers you."

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The Red Cross has a free smartphone app that can keep you apprised of natural disasters. One feature is the one-touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media outlets that they are out of harm’s way. For more information, click here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified from its original version to update Tropical Storm Isaac to Hurrican Isaac.

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