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Local Volunteers Head to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Lisa Castillo and Aaron Mahoney
Scott Pohl
The American Red Cross is sending Lisa Castillo to the Virgin Islands, while Aaron Mahoney volunteers in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are very early in the process of rebuilding and recovering from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Two local volunteers are scheduled to leave Lansing this morning to help American Red Cross aid efforts.

Lisa Castillo of Mason will help in the Virgin Islands, while Laingsburg native Aaron Mahoney, who now lives near Ionia, will do the same in Puerto Rico. Castillo worked in Florida after Irma passed through. This will be Mahoney’s first deployment. Each will be away for at least three weeks.

Mahoney was inspired to volunteer by news coverage of Hurricane Harvey's devastation of Texas. "I have a lot of free time, and I really need to go and help these people," he explains. His grandmother did Red Cross volunteer work after Hurricane Katrina. "I know how trusted they are. That's the best place that I could use my abilities."

Castillo is originally from Texas. She, too, was inspired by the damage caused by Harvey. She moved to Michigan in 1992, and the Red Cross came to her aid after house fires both in 1996 and 1997. "The love and the warmth and the compassion that they have...I thought, 'I think I need to sign up with the Red Cross and give back, because they gave to my family'."

Both Castillo and Mahoney think the training they've been given by the Red Cross has them well prepared for the conditions that they will face. That training has included instruction on how to avoid centipedes and snakes while in the field. "I'm not there for a vacation," Mahoney concludes; "I'm down there to help people. I'm not so worried about the way that I'm living as long as I'm helping other people."

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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