Paradise Valley native, Red Cross worker helps hurricane victims

Paradise Valley resident Colin Williams, right, with former Army medic Humberto Benitez, left, and Wilber Payne of St. Thomas. (Submitted photo)

Town of Paradise Valley native Colin Williams helped hundreds of hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during his 19-day Red Cross deployment.

“I was humbled and thrilled to be part of the massive Red Cross response effort on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Mr. Williams in a prepared statement.

“The team of staff and dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly to reach remote areas of the islands and efficiently deliver relief supplies.”

He was hired as regional communications officer for the Red Cross Arizona-New Mexico-El Paso region about a year ago, according to a press release. Mr. Williams helped provide “mass care” services to those impacted by the hurricanes.

“I unloaded trailers of food, drove on crazy mountain roads in minivans full of volunteers and boxes, and met hundreds of people who needed the Red Cross services including food and shelter,” he said.

Mr. Williams said he is most proud of helping four individuals get life-saving medications that they couldn’t access because of Hurricane Maria.

Wilber Payne, a St. Thomas resident with a chronic heart condition, was among the people Mr. Williams assisted. Mr. Payne contacted the American Red Cross for help since the medicine could not be delivered from Atlanta, Ga. to the island due to limited air transport amidst the hurricane, the release detailed.

As Mr. Payne’s health deteriorated, Mr. Williams and Humberto Benitez, a Southern Arizona Chapter volunteer, who was a former Army medic, were tasked to get his critical medication.

“The community hospital was our only hope. After meeting with many people, making numerous calls and close coordination with the pharmacist and folks in Atlanta, the hospital produced the fragile, very expensive and rare medication,” Mr. Williams stated, adding how overjoyed and grateful Mr. Payne was to receive the medication from them days after the storm.

“Humberto and I slapped an enthusiastic high-five and set out on our next mission,” Mr. Williams said.

They delivered much-needed satellite communication gear to the Red Cross Chapter on St. Croix by securing a ride on an Army helicopter and quickly getting the equipment to its destination, helping those on St. Croix to receive Red Cross aid.

“The Red Cross continues to expand its footprint in the disaster area. More volunteers and supplies are arriving daily,” Mr. Williams said.

This is Mr. Williams’ first major deployment since joining the Red Cross in 2016. He assisted during Arizona disasters such as the Goodwin fire and the floods in Mayer in northern Arizona.

Mr. Williams was previously a public information officer for the Rural/Metro Fire Department covering the Town of Paradise Valley and Scottsdale. He also served as operations manager for the SmokeTree Resort in Paradise Valley which his family has owned for more than 50 years.

Recently, the American Red Cross has launched wide-range relief efforts to help people devastated by three historic, back-to-back hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria, in addition to helping thousands of families affected by deadly wildfires in California.

The American Red Cross provides shelter, food and emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches life-saving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families.

The not-for-profit organization depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. To donate or volunteer, call the Red Cross Greater Phoenix Chapter at 602-336-6660 or go to RedCross.org/Arizona.

Go to redcross.org.

Editor’s note: Ms. Baker is a Red Cross volunteer.

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