Virginia Red Cross volunteers head to Gulf Coast to assist in Idalia recovery

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday morning, and as of 2 p.m. it has been downgraded to Category 1 status
Ed Miller
Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 30, 2023

GOOCHLAND, Va. -- Ed Miller's first disaster response, a few years ago, came right after Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated Puerto Rico.

On Thursday, Miller will deploy from his Goochland home to the Gulf Coast just hours after Hurricane Idalia ripped through the Florida panhandle as a Category 3 storm.

"I’ll never forget that one. It really stuck with me," Miller said of the 2017 trip to Puerto Rico.

“The interesting thing is I’ve done this a number of times, and every time I see the next one, it just breaks your heart. When you see people lining up to get food and then if they don’t have shelter, they’re trying to get someplace to live," he continued. "What I’ve learned is that every disaster that I’ve been to is different. The needs, generally, maybe the same, but the people are different.”

Miller will either work in feeding and shelter or supply delivery, taking wheelbarrows and shovels to people to help them clean up their homes after flooding. The storm surge and flooding damage from Hurricane Idalia are expected to be significant.

Ed Miller
Ed Miller

“If you sit around and let things get to you, then you’re not going to be able to do your job. The job is the key because if you do your job right you’re going to help the people who need it," Miller said.

Miller is one of eight Virginians heading to help the Red Cross in the aftermath of Idalia, although local officials said that number is expected to increase significantly as the damage is assessed. There are already more than 30 Virginians aiding the Red Cross relief stemming from the devastating fires in Hawaii.

American Red Cross
American Red Cross

In the first half of this calendar year, the Red Cross responded to 15 different disasters and each caused at least $1 billion worth of damage, officials said.

Miller retired from a career in economic development, giving him the flexibility to volunteer for the weeks-long stints with the Red Cross. He now uses people skills to help those who need it the most in the aftermath of disaster.

"Obviously, the people are different, the subjects are different, but getting people together and convincing them you can help or you can do something you need done," he said. "I rely on my background to help with those things."

You can learn more about volunteering to help with the Red Cross here.

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