American Red Cross of Mid-South

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

Red Cross Volunteers Sacrifice Holidays to Serve in Louisiana

By Carl Manning/American Red Cross (Note: Carl Manning is a Red Cross public affairs volunteer from Kansas City, Missouri. He is currently deployed in Louisiana to help with the Red Cross relief effort after the spring floods.)


Dan and Rhonda Zartman of Athens, Georgia, are among many American Red Cross volunteers on disaster relief duty in Louisiana instead of being home with family and friends on Easter. The couple said they are where they want to be, helping those in need after massive flooding throughout the state. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

ALEXANDRIA, Louisiana, March 24, 2016 – For many American Red Cross volunteers helping with the flood in Louisiana, Easter Sunday will be a time away from family and friends.

Instead of gathering around a family dinner table or attending church services, this Easter the volunteers will be carrying on with their collective mission of bringing hope and comfort to those whose lives were disrupted by the flooding.

In many ways, it will be another day on the job. But still the Easter message of redemption isn’t lost on Dan and Rhonda Zartman, a retired couple from Athens, Georgia.

“I just see this as love in action,” Dan said. “It’s nice to sit in a church sanctuary and talk about helping others; this is about going out and actually doing it.”

This is the first deployment for Dan and Rhonda, and it’s all that they had hoped for.

“Just being out where the people are and working to help them get their lives back together, for us that’s what matters,” Dan said.


American Red Cross volunteer Charles Jones of San Francisco, California, will spend Easter Sunday working to help others recover from the massive flooding in Louisiana. Charles has been working to load Red Cross trucks to carry water and other necessities to those needing help. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

Rhonda said while it’s sad to be away from family and friends on Easter, she’s glad to be in Louisiana.

“We made that choice and what we’re doing is making a difference. It’s carrying the message of Easter. The Lord says to help others, clothe and feed them. Well, that’s what we’re here for,” she said.

If not for being in Louisiana, Charles Jones would be home in San Francisco, California, going to church, hiding Easter eggs and sitting down to a family feast.

“If I had choice – which I do – I’d be here. I would rather here helping people who need help, especially those people who lost everything,” he said. “If I can bring a smile, a little hope – it’s better than being home.”

Bonnie Townsend is a registered nurse who came from Raleigh, North Carolina, who knew she wouldn’t get home in time for Easter. Red Cross nurses always are in demand at a disaster, and this one is no exception.


Bonnie Townsend is a registered nurse from Raleigh, North Carolina, who came to Louisiana to help in the flood recovery. She knew she wouldn’t be home in time to spend Easter with family and friends, but she said it was more important to be helping people in need of help. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

“I really believe that God would rather have me doing this than being home. We’re giving to those who need it the most,” Bonnie said.

Easter isn’t the only religious holiday and Christianity isn’t the only religion among Red Cross volunteers.

Jamsid Kiani from Fenton, California, is a member of the Baha’i faith and celebrates Nowruz, the Persian new year which occurs on the first day of Spring. It’s a time to exchange gifts and visit with friends and family.

“The reality is that I would rather be here. My passion is here, to serve the people who need us,” Jamsid said.

But it’s not just religious holidays that some are missing to be in Louisiana.

Like any American college student, Hemza Salem of Sacramento, California, spends hours in classes and looks forward to Spring Break – that annual ritual of fun and frolic.


Hemza Salem of Sacramento, California is a college student who gave up his Spring Break to come to Louisiana to help out with the flood recovery. He’s a member of Islamic Relief USA, which is a partner with the American Red Cross, assisting with assessing damage to the homes in the flooded areas. He and another Islamic Relief USA member assess damage in the Monroe, Louisiana, area. (Photo by Carl Manning/American Red Cross)

Instead of going to Zuma Beach or some other locale, Hemza headed to Louisiana after getting the call from Islamic Relief USA, a Red Cross partner, to help with disaster assessment.

Working with Red Cross volunteers, Islamic Relief members like Hemza are helping determine the extent of flood damage to homes. It’s a necessary first step to determine where the Red Cross needs to place its resources and who qualifies for various levels of assistance.

“Helping out here is more important than Spring break. I feel like people here need our help and at this point in their lives where they need all the help they can get,” Hemza said. “We’re here to help, no matter your faith. If you are a human and you need help, then we are going to help you.”

= = =

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information and shelter locations available on your mobile device. The Emergency App features emergency weather alerts to help keep the user safe, and provides information about what to do in during and after floods and storms as well as the locations of open shelters.

HOW TO HELP People in Louisiana need your support today. Help by making a gift to Louisiana Floods. Your donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters. Call toll free via 855-489-2529, or mail a donation with “Louisiana Floods” in the memo line to your local Red Cross or: American Red Cross of Louisiana, Attention: Helene Vance, 2640 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119.


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