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Small group of Idahoans travel to Florida to help with Hurricane Ian relief

Longtime American Red Cross volunteer Jennifer Bivert, who is from Payette, is traveling from emergency shelter to emergency shelter with supplies.

BOISE, Idaho — A small group of Idahoans are on in the ground in Florida helping people displaced from their homes.

American Red Cross sent three Idahoans to Florida this past week, Red Cross spokesperson Matt Ochsner said. Longtime volunteer Jennifer Bivert, who is from Payette, flew in on Thursday.

Bivert’s team is driving from shelter to shelter providing emergency supplies – like blankets, baby formula, cots and food.

“You can imagine if people are still in a shelter today, that means where they were or where they lived, is most likely destroyed,” she said. “They can't get back to it, you know, it hasn't been deemed safe enough for them to return. So, it's, you know, it's definitely a big deal for people. It's a tragedy.”

Bivert said she will be in Florida for another week and a half. During Bivert’s time there, her team will help about 14 different shelters.

The ultimate goal, she said, is to help transition people out of the shelters so they can start rebuilding their lives. There are also volunteers helping cleanup the destruction in communities.

“We go to help people recover and help them make a plan,” she said. “We have mental health services and medical services. And, you know, we talk to people about …. what their recovery plan could be and how we can help them.”

And for people not able to travel to Florida, there are ways to help at home. People can donate online through the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. There is also the Florida Disaster Fund, which is the State of Florida’s official private fund.

Donating blood is another way to help. Bivert said blood gets rerouted to states going through an emergency, not necessarily because more people need blood. But because people dealing with the disaster are less likely to give blood.

So, keeping the blood stock up is important, she said.

Seeing how the country is coming to together to help people going through such a difficult time is something Bivert said she is proud of.

“America is at its best [when] we're all helping each other,” she said. “And I think that energy, bringing that to people who have just had a disaster like this happen to them, it does bring them comfort to know that we're all one big family in this world.”

Ochsner said it will take a long time for Florida to recover from this natural disaster, and that they will most likely be sending over more Idahoans in the coming weeks.

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