Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sacramento volunteer heads to 5th hurricane - News10.net

Line of cars evacuating Florida Keys ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac (Photo Courtesy: USA Today)

SACRAMENTO - A low-key state capitol staffer is headed to Hurricane Isaac for his 5th stint as a Red Cross volunteer.

Robbie Abelon was watching Hurricane Katrina at his home in 2005 when he realized he had to do something.

He called the Red Cross, went through several days of training and was on the ground helping victims 12 days after the deadly hurricane struck.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared. It's unnerving to be sent into the path of a Hurricane - the unknown," Abelon said.

He is often the first point of contact for survivors.

They would tell me stories of how they had lost everything, lost their homes, in some cases had lost family members," he said.

Abelon worked at a shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he helped house over 300 people.

"If you can just help them get through the next hour which will hopefully get them through the next day which will helpfully get them through the next week until they can get their footing again," Abelon said Monday afternoon as he packed his bags for a flight to Louisiana.

Sometimes he deals with survivors who are dealing with extreme trauma.

"There was another evacuee - he had witnessed his wife pass away during Hurricane Katrina and was staying with us at the shelter. So some of these are life experiences that no one should ever have to go through,"he said.

He recalls howling winds at Hurricane Rita and having to walk into the rain driven in sideways to welcome new arrivals at his shelter and get them processed.

"Try to keep as much normalcy in their lives despite the most devastating thing in their lives that just happened," he said.

Abelon works for Sacramento Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan, who has given his blessing to the volunteer work.

As he wrote a rent check before leaving, Abelon prepared himself for another journey into the unknown.

"I wish I could say it was a once in a lifetime experience, but I'm going back there so I'll be doing it again."

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