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Red Cross of Northeast Georgia helping flood victims in Louisiana
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Laura Allen, Red Cross of Northeast Georgia executive director, center, is pictured with Red Cross volunteers Nell Gauthier, left, and Fernando Lugo.

How to help

The American Red Cross expects to spend at least $30 million helping with flood relief in Louisiana. To donate to help the efforts, go to www.redcross.org/donate and select “Louisiana Flood” under the “Use my donation to support” tab.

Simply getting to Louisiana to help flood victims was a long process for Jon Mayner.

The American Red Cross volunteer from Toccoa said what should have been the final hour and a half turned into a five-hour drive. He and his partner would drive the Gainesville-based Red Cross emergency response vehicle until they got to water, get out of the vehicle and ask people how best to navigate to where the water wasn’t and then keep driving.

His first day in Louisiana, Mayner and others from the Red Cross delivered 1,100 meals of jambalaya, salad and bread to one of the major shelters in Baton Rouge.

Mayner and Laura Allen, Red Cross of Northeast Georgia executive director, are among eight Red Cross disaster workers from Northeast Georgia and about 40 from Georgia on the ground in Louisiana. The Red Cross of Northeast Georgia has offices in Gainesville, Cumming and Athens.

Allen, an Athens resident, arrived Tuesday morning and saw the devastation that has damaged 40,000 homes in what many people there are comparing to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Allen has seen boats navigating waters that reach halfway up trees.

“To read about it or hear about it, it can’t compare to witnessing it in person,” Allen said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

After serving meals the first day, Mayner has been assessing damage to homes and relaying information back to the Red Cross so case workers can help the families.

“When you deploy to one of these things, you’re flexible and just do what you can,” Mayner said.

Allen is working with government officials to coordinate getting residents food, shelter and disinfectants for when they return to their homes. She said preventing mildew is a priority for families going back to their homes.

In the midst of such devastation, Allen said the Red Cross is helping provide hope.

“A lot of the people I encounter, they just light up because they associate the Red Cross with good things,” Allen said.

George and Nell Gauthier, a Louisiana couple, are serving as Red Cross shelter supervisors at the community center that served as a dance hall on the night they met in 1960. They were married three years later, and now they’re helping their community in the largest Red Cross response since Sandy.

“We need the whole country to rally behind Louisiana right now,” Allen said.

Allen said the Red Cross expects to spend at least $30 million in helping Louisiana flood victims. It is the largest disaster the agency has responded to in Allen’s three years with the Red Cross.

“It’s a heartbreaking reason to have to come to Louisiana,” Allen said. “But it has been an amazing experience to see neighbors rallying behind each other.

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