Resident joins Red Cross effort in North Carolina

Email from Robinson Sunday in North Carolina: "Getting ready to drive a 30-foot box truck full to the brim with supplies."

Email from Robinson Monday: Getting ready to deploy to Halifax, N.C., one of the worst hit.

Laurie Robinson knows what it’s like to be in the line of a devastating storm — her Milford home was hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 and had to be rebuilt. That’s one of the reasons she’s a volunteer with the Red Cross, right now in North Carolina as an emergency driver, prepared to deliver food and emergency supplies to those who need them.

Robinson, 65, is retired from the city’s Public Works Department. She had her commercial drivers license (CDL) from when she worked for the city but she had to take a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) course to qualify to be a driver for the Red Cross.

“Got here on September 11,” Robinson said via email Thursday night. “Paying it forward,” she added. “It’s very daunting, hard work: My body is saying what the heck, but my heart is full.”

Robinson drove to North Carolina with a friend on Tuesday and stayed in a hotel. On Thursday night she was in a Red Cross emergency shelter for volunteers in Winterville, N.C.

“I joined Red Cross as a volunteer after I retired from the city,” Robinson said. “Three major storms in my life in Milford and Red Cross was always there.”

She said all the volunteers she’s met at the shelter in North Carolina are there for the same reason: To help and encourage those affected by the storm.

Robinson is one of nearly 3,000 volunteers from the Connecticut and Rhode Island region of the Red Cross who were deployed to the Carolinas and Virginia in the last few days as Hurricane Florence approached that area. CNN reports that the hurricane reached land at 7:15 Friday morning as a Category 1 hurricane, bringing heavy rain and battering winds. As of Friday evening, Florence had been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, but was still wreaking havoc.

Robinson made local headlines in 2014 as she worked to rebuild her storm-wrecked home in Milford. She’d just finished a $10,000 kitchen remodel after Irene when Sandy hit, sending about six feet of water rushing into her house and destroying all the repairs she’d made after Irene.

She later chose to elevate and rebuild the house, taking advantage of government dollars available after the storms.

Along that long path to a safe and elevated home, Robinson said the people from the Red Cross, Catholic Charities and the United Way were “wonderful.”

So now, she said, she spends time “giving back.”

“I know how it feels like to lose everything, and I’m proof it does get better,” Robinson said. “If I can give these people any kind of hope and encouragement then it sure is all worth it.”