Story and photos by Ekland Durousseau, Red Cross contributor

When disaster strikes, no one organization can manage every aspect of a relief operation that is needed to help a community get back on its feet. Agencies and organizations working in partnership ensure more people get access to more services. 

For a relief operation like Tropical Storm Imelda, there is a lot of ground to cover and Cory Cummings, Laura Barnaby, Benjamin Haupt, Kaylon Kennedy, Niko Taylor, Patrick Nolan and Alex Brolsma are the seven-member FEMA Corps strike team known as Ocean One who are out in the field helping wherever they are needed.

Ocean One team members help support sheltering operations by cleaning cots and storing materials in the Orange warehouse.

They have helped transition shelters back to facility owners, cleaned cots, and travelled to storm-ravaged neighborhoods, walking door to door delivering much needed clean-up supplies along with water and snacks.   

“Being able to take the supplies out of the truck and bring them to affected homes and families has been amazing and is one of the reasons I signed up,” said Taylor. “Being able to help people directly, providing support and helping them get back on their feet — or at least deal with the situations they are in — is incredibly rewarding and people are very thankful to us for helping them out.” 

The team members are now serving as casework ambassadors in recovery centers, guiding clients to services and supporting disaster assessment within each center. The team members have a deep connection to serving and supporting those in need, some have a more personal reason. 

“Working in the Recovery Center really impacted me,” said Haupt. “I talked to a lot of survivors with deep emotional stories that really connected with me. I’m from Houston. During Harvey, my father and I went out in boats and helped rescue people with the Cajun Navy. That experience made me want to search out programs that are disaster related and AmeriCorps was a great fit for me.”