By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado volunteers from the American Red Cross are on the ground in Louisiana. The National Guard, local authorities and the Cajun Navy are helping locals in The Boot. Meanwhile, natives of the state who moved to Colorado are trying to call their families.

Sixteen years ago, Rachel Richlinski lost her childhood home during Hurricane Katrina. She spent Sunday night worrying about her family down south.

(credit: Rachel Richlinski)

“My mom let me know they lost power last night, and I didn’t hear anything this morning,” said Richlinski. “I called my mom, my dad, my sister. I called my sister’s boyfriend. Then the panic set in because my parents are in their 60s, and it’s just the two of them at home.”

A couple years ago, Richlinski moved to Denver to pursue a career in broadcast. A plane ticket isn’t something all residents in her Louisiana town of Gonzales can easily buy.

“Not everyone can afford to pack up their car and pay for gas to drive across the country. You have to pay for a hotel. That’s why people don’t evacuate. Usually, you don’t have much of a choice but to stay. And there’s a lot of pride in it, too,” said Richlinski.

Louisiana natives are resilient. A thousand miles west, Coloradans are matching their strength with care.

Andrea Carlson, a spokesperson for American Red Cross chapter in Colorado and Wyoming, said 10 to 15 volunteers on the ground in Baton Rouge to assist with the aftermath of Ida.

“They’re bringing in water. They’re bringing in comfort kits, cleanup kits, all sorts of supplies that we would hand out at our shelters or in our evacuation centers. There’s a lot of movement that’s happening here right now,” said Carlson.

Carlson says more volunteers are coming as soon as the organization can secure flights.
She says when teams like Colorado’s travel to support, they’re plugging in with the training they’ve already received. Carlson says the universal Red Cross training is an effective and efficient way for them to respond to the same types of disasters anywhere across the country.

“We’re providing those same services that we would provide during a bomb cyclone in Colorado. Everybody’s trained the same way and we speak the same Red Cross language,” said Carlson.

(credit: CBS)

Carlson says Red Cross volunteers from Colorado are often dispatched to disasters nationwide. They’re always in need of volunteers, but volunteers with specialized experience are needed the most.

“We have a huge need for some of our mental health volunteers to help support individuals that were impacted by the tragic events that happened last night big and small,” said Carlson.
Rachel finally got in touch with her family, but every Ida story won’t end this way.

From outside her Colorado house, she’s grateful for the neighbors helping her first home.

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“I’m so proud of the state that I grew up in. Louisiana is always going to be home for me, but there’s something about Colorado that’s so special,” said Richlinski. “Knowing that they’re so willing to get up quickly and go help the people of Louisiana really warms my heart. It solidifies the fact that Colorado is home to me.”

Tori Mason