ST. THOMAS — A new volunteer group aims to bring comfort and company into local homes during hurricanes.
Ride Out The Storm Volunteers is the concept of local community volunteers, many of whom worked during hurricanes Irma and Maria with residents of Red Cross shelters. Participants say the concept is to provide volunteers to go into the homes of vulnerable residents, particularly senior citizens, in the event of hurricanes.
Bruce Flamon, one of the program’s organizers, said many seniors avoided shelters during the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes.
“What we noticed over these past two storms is that a lot of senior people and people with physical challenges don’t come to the shelter,” he said.
Volunteers for the program will be trained in CPR and first aid, and potentially provided with radios, Flamon said.
“First, a volunteer will come out and do a site inspection to make sure the residence is safe and secure,” he said.
Volunteers will also be subjected to a background check, Flamon said.
“We’ll do the background checks, we’ll do interviews, and we’ll make sure we’re trained.”
The group has registered 11 volunteers so far, Flamon said.
Diamond Carter is another of the group’s participants. She said she was moved to help after Irma, when off-island families sometimes had difficulty locating elderly family members or other relatives who lived alone.
“Some of the seniors in my complex, most of their families are off-island,” she said. “A lot of them went into shelters.”
As a result, the program will emphasize seniors first, though ultimately organizers hope to expand it to include people with physical disabilities, some types of mental illness and other vulnerable populations, Carter said.
In other instances, buildings with elevators lost power, meaning seniors faced the daunting task of climbing flights of stairs each day to obtain basic necessities, Carter said.
“We just want to bridge the gap so family in the states can feel safe that their loved ones are taken care of,” she said.
Another element driving the group is the perception that the territory’s population has significantly decreased in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes, Carter said.
She cited the large number of people who departed the territory on mercy flights and emergency cruises following the storms. While some of the departed may have returned, Carter said the perception still exists.
Regardless, the group aims to muster resources to help people in the territory, Carter said.
“If the person feels that they would be safer with a group, that’s our goal,” she said.
The group’s next meeting is at 6:30 tonight outside the Fat Turtle restaurant in Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas, Flamon said.
Anyone interested in joining the group can call Flamon at 340-513-4041.