11-year Red Cross member to volunteer in Oklahoma

PARKERSBURG – Helping those in need is why Mike Kesterson will soon be in Oklahoma as an American Red Cross volunteer for tornado disaster relief.

“I will be doing what I can to help those who have lost nearly everything with the tornado,” said Kesterson, a Little Hocking resident.

Kesterson has been a volunteer with the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross for about 11 years and been deployed to more than 20 disasters across the country.

“Over the last five years I have been to Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and pretty much anywhere else there has been a disaster,” he said. “I am retired and can’t think of a better way to spend my time than helping people.”

Kesterson said he does not expect to be surprised by the devastation caused by the tornado on Monday.

“I expect it will look like it does on TV,” he said. “I’ve seen all different disasters hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes and nothing I see there will shock me.

“Regardless of where the disaster is, it affects people the same way,” Kesterson said.

Kesterson left at 6 a.m. today and plans to spend about two weeks in Oklahoma City.

“I have to be back for hurricane training in mid-June,” he said. “But if they need me to go back after, I will.”

Kesterson is the first volunteer from the local chapter to be sent to Oklahoma, but Sharon Kesselring, financial development director for the chapter, said he will likely not be the last.

“As the need arises or continues, national headquarters will request more people and we will send those available,” she said.

Kesterson said he was surprised to be deployed so soon, as it usually takes about a week for volunteer requests to go to the chapters.

“I was expecting to be deployed no earlier than the weekend, so this caught me a little off guard,” he said. “But I am happy to go; it is a rewarding job to be able to help people.”

It is not unusual for local volunteers to spend days, weeks or months deployed to disaster areas throughout the country.

Last year, volunteers responded locally during the last June derecho when the national headquarters for the Red Cross was set up at Parkersburg South High School, and to the coastal areas of New York and New Jersey following the Hurricane Sandy disaster.

Earlier this year more volunteers were sent to New England states following storm Nemo, which left 2 feet of snow.

“We deploy volunteers whenever they are needed and available,” Kesselring said.

The chapter also will accept donations to aid those affected by the Oklahoma disaster at the 220 Eighth St. office.