Local Couple Heads To NJ

ST. MARYS — Two Auglaize County residents are among a group from the Northwest Ohio Region of the American Red Cross who are traveling to New Jersey to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Richard and Colleen Bekemeier, of Wapakoneta, Jean Schroeder, of Ottawa, and Rodney Knauss, of Van Wert, were deployed on Wednesday to Ocean, N.J., to help out with relief efforts in the wake of Sandy’s devastation earlier this week. Much of the region remains without power and towns, homes and businesses have been leveled because of the storm.

“It takes special people to do what they are doing,” Auglaize County Red Cross Branch Director Ken Cline told The Evening Leader. “The Bekemeiers have been with us for several years and I have had the opportunity to work with them and they are very giving people. Whenever I call for something, they are right there.”

The Bekemeiers will be active for a minimum of two weeks, with a third week also possible. The couple will assist in shelters in New Jersey during their stint.

“They will be working a minimum of 12-hour, probably 16-hour shifts,” Cline said. “It’s all volunteer work and it’s quite a commitment. It also tells you what kind of people they are.”

The Bekemeiers finished up their last training session on Oct. 20. That made them eligible to respond to a national call for assistance.

“They indicated they wanted to help not only locally, but others outside our area if the need surfaced,” Cline said.

Following the disaster, calls poured into the Red Cross from residents looking to help those in need. Cline said currently there is little the Red Cross can do because of logistics.

“Now we refer them to RedCross.org or there is a number they can text to donate $10,” Cline said. “Unfortunately, the Red Cross is not in a position to bring trucks in with supplies. They have strategically placed supplies in warehouses that they can move in. This week, I received a call from a local business who wanted to do a canned food drive, but it doesn’t work in this situation because we don’t have a way to get the supplies to them. We do send our ERVs (emergency response vehicles).”

To donate to the Red Cross, visit RedCross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Monetary gifts allow the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by the storm.