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Jed Boal ReportingAs hurricane season grinds on, Red Cross disaster volunteers are coming home from Katrina Relief while others prepare to help when needed. Hurricane Katrina could have a lasting effect for the Red Cross.
Three weeks ago, when the Greater Salt Lake Area Chapter of the American Red Cross sent volunteers for Katrina relief, it had a list of 50 people trained for disasters. Now that list is growing, in Utah and across the country.
Mo Ghandehari is a five-year Red Cross disaster relief veteran. He co-managed a shelter in Pearl River, Louisiana the first two weeks after Katrina hit. Adrenaline kept the stress at bay, but fatigue set as the days went by.
Mo Ghandehari, Red Cross Volunteer: "The most important element is to make the shelter people comfortable. You're there for a purpose, you put it in high gear and do it."
The Red Cross sheltered more than one hundred people at that shelter and pulled it off with the help of shelter residents, local volunteers and a lot of hugs.
Mo Ghandehari: "It is heartbreaking to see these people. You also hang in there with them."
Locally the Red Cross trained 17-hundred new volunteers in the last two weeks, most to assist at Camp Williams. Seven of them trained for disaster relief and headed off to Katrina.
And as for tracking Hurricane Rita...
Mariann Geyer, CEO of Greater Salt Lake Area Chapter of the American Red Cross: "When you look at the geographic region where Rita is, that's where we've got all sorts of folks, all sorts of assistance."
Right now they'll wait and see what the Rita does to determine what resources are necessary. Ghandehari believes whatever the needs, Red Cross volunteers will get rewards greater than they give.
Mo Ghandehari, Red Cross Volunteer: "You don't want an accident to happen. It's a very satisfying experience."
The surge in volunteers is unprecedented, but so was Hurricane Katrina. Now the challenge for the local chapters is to keep the volunteers interested and engaged in volunteering in the community.