TOLONO — Lou Fuentes isn’t quite sure what to expect when he arrives in Arkansas to help victims of tornadoes and flooding, but he hopes his efforts can make a difference.
“No two disasters are alike,” said Fuentes, a Red Cross volunteer from Tolono who has provided help following hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav and the Red River floods in North Dakota.
Fuentes flew out of Willard Airport on Tuesday night on his way to Little Rock, Ark., where he and other volunteers from the Central Illinois Chapter of the Red Cross plan to help people forced to flee their homes when several tornadoes leveled homes, overturned vehicles and uprooted trees over the weekend and severe flooding left others homeless.
Fuentes will assume duties in disaster assessment, helping the Red Cross gauge storm and flood damage.
“These storms and floods can be very devastating, and our job is to provide a little support to families to make things better.”
Fuentes said his team will assess the damage, determine how many people have been affected, decide the scope of the operations and plan how to sustain the operation.
“Our primary mission is to provide food and shelter and clothing,” Fuentes said. “We will set up shelters in gymnasiums and municipal buildings. We will provide food at the shelters. We also do mobile feeding in which we take food out to neighborhoods and towns.”
Joining Fuentes on his mission with the Red Cross are Alyssa Pollock of Morton and Leah Laxton of Creve Coeur.
After working in Arkansas for several days, Fuentes said he may go on to help with disaster relief following floods in Tennessee.
“My total commitment is for three weeks of service,” Fuentes said. “That’s what the Red Cross does. We go where we are needed to offer comfort.”
The Tolono man said he has served as a volunteer with the Red Cross since 2005.
“It is very rewarding,” Fuentes said. “You get a good feeling when you are able to put a hot meal in someone who hasn’t had one for a while.”