York Red Cross exec heading to W. Va. floods

Sean Philip Cotter
  • The head of the local Red Cross chapter is assisting in disaster-relief efforts in West Virginia.
  • Recent flooding has killed more than 20 people in that state.

The head of the local Red Cross chapter will drive down to West Virginia on Tuesday morning to help with the severe flooding that's killed more than 20 people and left many more homeless over the past few days.

Matt Leininger, who's been the executive director for The American Red Cross of South Central PA for a decade, has signed on to help with the disaster-relief efforts for as long as two weeks, he said Monday afternoon.

Matt Leininger, executive director of The American Red Cross of South Central PA

He anticipates working as a resource coordinator, a role the Red Cross often plays when assisting with a disaster. This likely means he'll be working with local church groups and other organizations, helping make sure resources are allocated in ways that will help the most people.

"Someone needs to coordinate that sort of application process," said Leininger, who normally operates out of the Red Cross office in York City.

The chapter, which covers Adams, Franklin, Fulton and York counties, also is  sending down two volunteers and an emergency-response vehicle. It's essentially a box truck, he said, with the Red Cross symbol on the side. The organization, which will coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, uses ERVs to distribute food and other resources to the communities that need them.

"Almost like, if you will, a Goodie Bar truck," he said. "People come pouring out of homes you can't even believe they’re still living in."

Donations of bottled water for flood victims pile up at a distribution center Monday, June 27, 2016, in Rainelle, West Virginia. The National Weather Service warned downpours Monday could bring a half-inch of rain or more in some areas already ravaged by flooding, including.  (AP Photo/John Raby)

The Red Cross sometimes also provides "three hots and a cot" — food and shelter, he said.

"The needs overwhelm the system sometimes," he said. The Red Cross tries to provide support services to allay those situations, Leininger said.

Flash flood warnings remained in effect in some parts of West Virginia through Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service. Flood watches remained around much of the state through Monday night.

Superstorm Sandy: This is not the first time Leininger has ended up on the front lines in a disaster situation. In the fall of 2012, he worked on Long Island after Superstorm Sandy caused widespread destruction in the region. There, he was the logistics manager for one of the four mobile kitchens the Red Cross set up in the area. Each churned out 50,000 hot meals a day.

"It’s a pretty amazing operation to see up close and personal," he said.

Leininger said the Red Cross is in need of resources on the national level. More money and warm bodies would help the organization better do its work in these kinds of disaster situations.

Locally, the Red Cross' duties involve collecting blood donations and helping at the scenes of fires and other incidents, providing resources for the firefighters and people displaced. The local chapter is in pretty good shape, he said, though officials always are seeking more donations and people to join up.

"They can raise their hand and say, 'Hey, I'd like to become a Red Cross volunteer,'" he said.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.