Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
Tomorrow will mark one month since flooding destroyed parts of rural West Virginia. The devastation is heartbreaking. But the outreach of neighbors, people from across the state and across the nation has been heartwarming. While there are so many sad stories, there are also many great stories of people using their talents and skills to help out. An important part of my role as CEO of the Highland companies in Charleston is being involved with important partners. Today, I took pleasure in my role as a board member of the American Red Cross WV region in hearing some of these great stories.
One important story that I heard is about a woman in Elkins, WV, who wanted to help out with volunteer efforts. (I regret I didn’t get her name, so that she could be recognized here). Since she had a communications background, she decided to create a website to try to help coordinate help. Out of her idea grew the site www.wvflood.com. This simple but elegant website links those who want to volunteer with places across the state where volunteer efforts are being coordinated. It also allows those who need help to sign up to get that help. Quickly, the website was dealing with about 4000 offers for help and statements of need per day—clearly meeting a need in a time of emergency. If you’d like to volunteer for ongoing needs in the flooded areas of our state no matter what your age or skill level, don’t hesitate to visit that website which is updated daily. I know I will be passing this information along to the other groups that I’m involved with, and hope you will too. I’ll also be visiting that website frequently to continue to sign up my family and me to volunteer.
Today, I also heard stories of Red Cross volunteers who have come from across the country to help our WV neighbors. They’ve come on a moment’s notice, and they’ve come to do what they do best—engage in immediate assistance to those faced with a disaster—whether that is a flood, a fire, a tornado or hurricane. What we heard today was staggering—over 2300 overnight stays have been provided in Red Cross Shelters; more than 198,000 meals and snacks have been served, nearly 133,000 relief items have been distributed, more than 8,500 health and mental health contacts have been made and over 1700 cases have been opened by American Red Cross workers and volunteers in West Virginia to help individuals and families in need. These volunteers will continue their work because that’s what they do. They take time away from their lives to help others.
This is just the help provided by the American Red Cross. The news is replete with others from across the state, the country, and our own hometowns helping out. But help will need to continue for the forseeable future. Think about these families at Thanksgiving and through the holiday season when your office or civic group is interested in helping out families in need. But also think about them every weekend when you have some free time. No matter how much or how little, help is needed and appreciated. Helen Keller said “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” I urge you to find something you can do to help our neighbors in their continuing times of need. Your help will be immeasurable in decreasing the stress of these communities, and insuring their future physical, social, and mental health.