TOLEDO (WTOL) - Hurricane Michael has forever changed Florida and parts of its beautiful Gulf Coast.
The devastation left in Michael’s path will be felt for years, but the Red Cross is working to come alongside families in Florida’s Panhandle to offer support.
“The fact that this was just a tropical storm last Monday and then by the time it hit the coast it was almost a category five is just unprecedented,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny, executive director of the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Red Cross.
"It’s just an unbelievable amount of destruction,” said Fred Vallongo, a mental health counselor for the Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.Lives lost, homes destroyed and communities wiped out.
Parts of Mexico Beach are completely leveled after Hurricane Michael made landfall last week.
Fred Vallongo is a mental health counselor with the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Red Cross. He arrived in Port Saint Joseph just about 30 miles away from Mexico Beach Saturday.
While he said Floridians are in good spirits, the destruction is intense to witness.
“I was out driving through the town today talking to people and you know there are just some blocks that are just gone,” said Vallongo. “There’s nothing there.”
The Red Cross stood ready to respond.
“We’re trained to have the mental health there to help kind of walk them through the process and walk them through the mental process and start that recovery process for them,” said Hepner-Zawodny. “So, it’s not just about the responses, but it’s about the recovery. We’re just starting those conversations, but still, it’s very early in the response phase.”
Monday you called to help victims through the red cross, but there’s more that needs to be done. You can help by not only making monetary donations, but also blood donations or volunteering your time.
“This is something that is going to affect so many lives for so long and change the overall topography of Florida,” said Rachel Hepner-Zawodny. “We all have you know a memory of Florida or maybe that area. It’s time for us to kind of pull together and help these guys out.”
Vallongo said some he’s talked to want to leave the area, while others won’t even knowing it will take years to rebuild their lives and homes. He said your donations are not only appreciated, but deeply needed.
"This is what Americans do, we look out for each other,” he added.
The Red Cross is also still proving aid from Hurricane Florence. They said anything you can give will make a difference and help those facing some of the toughest times of their lives.
You can donate online you can so here, call 1-800-RED CROSS or even text MICHAEL to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
The Red Cross held a phone bank with media outlets across Toledo on Monday to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Michael.
The phone bank raised about $30,000 between WTOL 11 and 13abc alone.