Des Plaines resident joining hurricane relief efforts in Florida
When Yasmin Clinton heads to Florida this week, she plans to travel lightly.
But she will be bringing loads of compassion and patience.
Clinton, a Des Plaines resident who works as a stock trader, is volunteering with American Red Cross to help people impacted by Hurricane Ian.
This will not be her first hurricane. She said she has been involved in nine Red Cross deploys, including to Hurricane Laura, which hit Louisiana in 2020, and Hurricane Marco that same year.
"I like volunteering and giving of my time," she said Wednesday. "And so with natural disasters, I feel like this is the one time that people don't have a choice and they really need help. And it's fulfilling for me that I am able to help them at this time of need."
Clinton, who plans to fly to Miami on Thursday, helps people forced into shelters by providing them with food and basic needs while they wait to take the next step toward getting back their lives.
In cases like the hurricane that struck Lake Charles, Louisiana, she had a chance to get to know the people and hear their stories.
"You're kind of a shoulder for them," she said. "And we provide a safe space for them. Just being there to help with whatever their specific need is, is what I found very rewarding."
She said volunteers who take part in the sheltering effort do not go to the affected area.
"We go where they are going to house those impacted safely from out of harm's way," she said.
She said Red Cross provides a list of items to take.
"You mostly want to keep it minimal, because you don't know once you're on the ground if you're going to have to move from one shelter to another shelter, and so we tend to pack light but efficient," she added.
Her baggage will include a First Aid kit, as well as such essentials as a flashlight and a glow stick. She'll also pack an inflatable mattress.
One thing she doesn't bring is a set of expectations, since volunteers need to be flexible. She remembers being in a hotel with clients during a hurricane event in New Orleans.
"It was able to sustain the hurricane force winds," she said. "Yes, that was a little scary. I have not sat through winds that fast, and we were able to see out the windows the damage that the winds was making. But we knew that we were in a safe place."
As she mentally prepares herself, she said she tries to stay calm, knowing that things can change quickly.
"I try to keep as relaxed as I can and keep myself thinking positive thoughts," she said. "I'm going there to help people who have truly been impacted by something that did not impact myself. And so I'm there to support them.
"My most satisfying work is just the hope in the eyes of the client, when they're ready to leave the shelter -- the excitement about going back home or going to their new living arrangements."
Anyone willing to become involved or donate can visit redcross.org for more information.