‘Grieving for their land’: Local volunteers helping in Maui

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Two Red Cross volunteers from the Rochester region just landed in Maui. They’ll be there for the next three weeks to help with disaster relief after the deadly wildfires.

They’re among a small representation of volunteers from the East Coast. On Tuesday, they told News10NBC they’re seeing devastation like never seen before.

Laura Lutz said she’s seen many homes completely destroyed. Shells of cars remain where they were parked before the fire, and neighborhoods are wiped out.

The cleanup of debris hasn’t started yet, as the search for missing persons is not complete yet. The community has set up multiple shelters for food and supplies.

Lutz said the Red Cross headquarters is a few miles removed from the damage. It’s actually set up in an abandoned mall. She spoke with us in an empty Forever 21 dressing room.

A lot of the work in her day is on the ground talking to people, assisting them with whatever they need.

She has seen some of the damage, and said homes are completely destroyed in many neighborhoods.

She’ll be working with the spiritual care team, specifically. A lot of people have lost loved ones, or are still searching for loved ones.

Lutz said this is the most devastating part.

“I think the need for reunification is heartbreaking, to see people searching for their family members, and unfortunately, I suspect that some of them will not find family members and that’s just heartbreaking,” said Lutz. “So the community is really coming together, I think I mentioned there’s 250 Red Cross volunteers on the ground, but the community, local people have responded.”

Bernadette Bowie is also helping volunteer. She’s a Senior Recruitment Specialist for Western New York Red Cross. She’s helping to coordinate volunteers and set up meal distribution, transportation and shelter.

“Just knowing that I have the skills, that I can actually travel and come over, is humbling. It’s humbling to know I have the skills I can use for this,” she said. “Nothing is going to change what has happened. But we can at least let people know we care and we’re doing what we can.”

Bowie said they’re always looking for more volunteers.

If you’re interested, you can go to RedCross.org/Volunteer.

If you feel called to do this work, Bowie encourages you to sign up for the training, so when these natural disasters happen, you can make a difference.