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Local Red Cross volunteer heading south to help storm victims

Red Cross volunteer Gary Peterson, of Spring Valley, is going to Birmingham, Ala., this weekend to help the victims of the devastating storms that swept through six southern states on Wednesday.

Gary Peterson of Spring Valley will head  to Birmingham, Ala., this weekend for a 21-day deployment to help victims of the deadly storms that devastated communities on Wednesday and killed at least 297 people in six Southern states.

Peterson is a volunteer from the southeastern chapter of the American Red Cross. Other volunteers from the chapter and its Emergency Response Vehicles are ready to go when they're needed, said the chapter Assistant Director Andy Tlougan this morning.

"At this stage of the operation down there, they're still doing some evaluations of staffing needs. But we've put our ERV and a lot of our volunteers on standby. We expect to hear more today or during the weekend," Tlougan said.

Peterson was called because of his expertise as an experienced government liaison manager. In that function, he will be working at an emergency operation center in Birmingham, coordinating Red Cross volunteers and relaying information to the government.

"We give them whatever they need to know as far as how many meals Red Cross is serving, how many volunteers we have, how many people we have in shelters. That type of statistical information is so important to them because then they can start planning the recovery," Peterson said.


Peterson has been a Red Cross volunteer for 10 years, responding to emergencies throughout the country, including to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in September 2008.

Peterson will have to pick up and leave, as he has so many times.

"You kind of get an inkling, you know, like 'I bet ya anything I'm going to be deployed here shortly.' And a lot of time that sixth sense does take over, and there you are," he said.

In addition, Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp. announced Thursday that it will donate three semi-trailer loads of Hormel Compleats microwave meals, which amounts to about 165,000 meals, to Feeding America food banks.

"We extend our condolences to everyone who has been affected by this devastation," said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer at Hormel Foods. "As relief efforts begin, we hope these meals will provide a source of nourishment."


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