Iowan’s Heart Still Heavy After More Than Two Weeks of Hurricane Relief

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was not easy to stomach.

"I cry a lot, I feel bad for all of them. I just feel bad for all of them," said Iowa Red Cross volunteer Brenda Kamish.

For 16 days, Brenda provided relief support at a mega shelter in Dallas. "I was on concrete all day setting up 5,000 cots for people and feeding them with the Salvation Army," she said.

Texans who left their homes behind with just a bag of belongings.

"The people from Beaumont were picked up on boats from their homes because the water rose so fast they couldn't get out," Brenda said.

The overflow of displaced residents took its toll.

"The toilets got all stopped up, we couldn't use toilets inside. They brought in portable bathrooms and showers were in a semi-truck, but they went through far more than what I experienced."

Brenda was in charge of seven rows of 72 beds, and she was also attempting to provide empathy and comfort daily to over 500 people.

"Everything you went through during the day was there. The tears you shed for those people was there and the hurt in your heart."

She was a shoulder to cry on even as more bad news piled on for the victims. "Some of the apartment landlords were telling them they had five days to get stuff out, and they are six hours away."

A total of 74 Iowans have provided help for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Irma.  Brenda is one of 23 who recently returned after more than two weeks away from her Moravia home.

"People don't realize how hard it is for these people and how much help they need," she said.

It's help that is now stretched thin after Hurricane Irma barreled into Florida.  Brenda said, "I feel guilty leaving and coming back because they still need help."

The Iowa Red Cross says 75 more people attended volunteer information sessions across the state last week.  Because of the increased interest, two more sessions have been added on Thursday, September 14th at 6 p.m. in Sioux City and Dubuque.  Another session will be held on Tuesday, September 19th in Cedar Rapids.