Despite losing job to pandemic, Myrtle Beach volunteer helps wildfire recovery efforts in Oregon

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Even though Myrtle Beach resident, Barbara Lemieux lost her job to the pandemic, she’s providing a helping hand to families affected by wildfires in Oregon.

The wildfires in the west have claimed at least 27 lives and tens of thousands of people are displaced between Washington state, California, and Oregon. Now families are turning to nearby shelters.

Lemieux, who’s been in Oregon for five days, said some families there have never been through such a disaster.

“It’s all new and scary and they have the threat of a fire taking their home or their pets or their lives and put that with the fact that…you can’t go outside without a mask here,” she explained.

Milky clouds of smoke and COVID-19 are also a threat for folks out west. Lemeiux and 2,000 other American Red Cross volunteers from South Carolina have been deployed to help with disaster relief in the West and Gulf coasts.

Those helping in the southern states are dealing with Hurricane Sally, while recovering from Laura.

Lemieux’s main concern is making sure people stay connected with their families and providing them what they need until it’s clear to go back home.

“They’re just flat out – not letting people back in,” she said. “Mostly not because the fire is a threat, but mostly because of the air quality. Some people are just waiting on the air quality to lift and the fire to move on to for it to be a little bit better for them to go back home.”

Lemieux is helping distribute clothes, food, cots and hygiene/care kits for those at the shelters. She’s been volunteering at Red Cross for a year, but started volunteering with other organizations when she was 17.

Lemieux asks those back home in Myrtle Beach to keep the people of Oregon in their hearts.

“Sadly, all we see are shadows of mountains and shadows of giant pine trees – we can’t even see the beauty of it,” she explained. “So, I would like us to show some compassion and send some prayers over to the residents of Oregon.”

American Red Cross volunteers are only deployed two weeks per assignment. Although this is Lemieux’s first time being deployed, she told News13 she’s ready to be sent wherever there is a need.

She encourages those who can to donate and/or volunteer. American Red Cross does have virtual volunteer opportunities available.

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