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UCF Employees Help Polk, Charlotte Residents
Recover from Hurricane

Courtesy of the University of Central Florida

The Florida Solar Energy Center's
solar-powered trailer provided power to medical tents in Charlotte County.

UCF counselors Germayne Crow Graham, Megan Greene and Valeska Wilson volunteered at hurricane shelters and delivered ice, water and fliers, along with friendly conversations, to residents in eastern Polk County.

Senior Research Engineer Bill Young drove the Florida Solar Energy Center's solar-powered trailer to Charlotte County, where the hurricane made landfall, to provide power for a medical tent. The federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams are still using the trailer, which was delivered last week.

The counselors, who are trained volunteers with the Florida Crisis Response Team, and Young are among the many UCF employees who have helped hurricane victims recover from the storm and cope with the damage it inflicted on their homes and the disruptions it imposed on their lives.

"I think FEMA did a fabulous job, but they had so much to do, so we were able to tend to (victims) personally more than FEMA people were able to," said Wilson, a specialist in student counseling who has worked at UCF for seven years.

UCF Counselor
Jonathan Vermilye
hauls ice to storm victims from a parking lot
in Fort Meade.

Graham, Greene and Wilson volunteered Aug. 19 to 22 in Bartow, Fort Meade, Haines City and other Polk County communities. They talked with residents at a special-needs shelter and helped American Red Cross and Salvation Army volunteers hand out ice, water and food in several communities.

"They were thankful that somebody was there just to listen to them and to check on them," said Greene, a student counseling specialist who has worked two years at UCF.

Wilson said she was glad that she spoke just enough Spanish to help a woman who didn't speak English find the information she needed at a shelter.

Graham, a UCF psychologist for the last three years, said she spent an hour talking with an 84-year-old retired teacher whose home was destroyed by the storm. Before the woman found out that her home was determined to be no longer livable, Graham talked with her about her family and friends and tried to get her to think about what she would do if she had to stay somewhere other than her home.

Nursing Assistant
Irma Mathews
gets hug from Dorothy Boehm at a special-needs shelter in Bartow (Polk County).

Young said he noticed while in Charlotte County that some residents with solar power had power and hot water while none of their neighbors did. One of his and the Florida Solar Energy Center's goals is to show residents how using alternative sources of energy can help them get through a storm more comfortably.

"You're disaster resistant, so you don't have to live with what your neighbors are living with," Young said.

Young said the center will allow the Disaster Medical Assistance Team in Charlotte County to continue using the trailer as long as it's needed.

After he dropped off the trailer in Charlotte County, Young helped to inspect roofs that were damaged during the storm. He joined a team of inspectors who were trying to determine how different types of roofs held up in the wind and rain.