Zonia Quero-Ziada flew out of the Tri-Cities today, bound for storm-torn Mississippi.
She is the first American Red Cross volunteer from the Benton-Franklin Chapter to be sent to help with relief operations in the South after April's tornadoes. Two more local volunteers are expected to leave this week.
Quero-Ziada, of Kennewick, is a disaster veteran. She's deployed for the Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Rita in 2005, Hurricane Ike in 2008 and, closer to home, Western Washington flooding.
"I've slept on a floor before, on a mat. I've also stayed in nice hotels," she said.
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Her goal is to go prepared for whatever conditions she finds.
She will be helping in northern Mississippi, receiving her assignment when she arrives in Jackson, she said. She'll be assigned to client services, possibly as a supervisor or doing paperwork, helping feed large crowds or meeting with individuals and families to try to help with their specific needs.
In the Tri-Cities, she works as a Spanish interpreter for the court, and that language skill has come in handy at other disasters, she said. She also speaks Arabic.
As a Muslim, serving others is an important part of her beliefs.
"It is something I like," she said. "It is a gift from God."
She expects to spend about two weeks in Mississippi.
"I know I will come back very tired, but very satisfied," she said.
As she represents the Tri-Cities in the South, people in the Tri-Cities can help by offering prayers for the success of her efforts or by donating to the Red Cross, she said.
Having helped at other disasters, she said she's seen first hand the financial need.
Donations can be made at www.redcross.org or a $10 donation may be made by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. Contributions also may be sent to the American Red Cross, Benton-Franklin Chapter, 7202 W. Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, WA, 99336.
The Red Cross has set up relief operations in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia.
As of Sunday, it had served more than 314,000 meals and snacks; opened 90 shelters providing 6,600 overnight stays; provided more than 5,900 health and mental health consultations and distributed more than 35,700 toiletries and other items.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org.