Jim Kerrigan of Old Orchard Beach checks in at the Portland Jetport on Monday morning before deploying to Puerto Rico with the Red Cross.LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Jim Kerrigan of Old Orchard Beach checks in at the Portland Jetport on Monday morning before deploying to Puerto Rico with the Red Cross.LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

PORTLAND — Red Cross volunteer Crystal Abbott of Waterboro was given some straightforward advice as she prepared to deploy to Puerto Rico.

“Be prepared for everything,” she said she was told.

Abbott and four other Mainers were leaving the state Monday morning and flying to Atlanta for an orientation, then heading out to Puerto Rico Tuesday or Wednesday for a three-week deployment. The five were the first from Maine to be deployed to Puerto Rico to provide assistance after the island was hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Red Cross volunteers Crystal Abbott of Waterboro, Anne Heminway of Phippsburg and Jim Kerrigan of Old Orchard Beach gather at the Portland Jetport on Monday. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Red Cross volunteers Crystal Abbott of Waterboro, Anne Heminway of Phippsburg and Jim Kerrigan of Old Orchard Beach gather at the Portland Jetport on Monday. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Though volunteers often don’t know what lies ahead when they deploy to a different part of the country, this group was told to expect some unusual conditions. 

The volunteers will be headed to an area where there is currently no electricity or cell phone or internet service, and medical care is scarce on the hurricane devastated island, said Disaster Program Manager Larry French. Many roads are closed, and water supplies are critically low. Volunteers were told to pack protein bars, as they may not get three meals a day.

Those volunteering in Puerto Rico have to go through a series of six mental and physical health screenings, said French.

Like the rest of the group, Abbott walked into the Portland Jetport Monday morning, hefting a large backpack. The volunteers were instructed to bring all their items for the trip in packs they could carry on their back, and that they may be sleeping in tents. 

Abbott is an experienced volunteer with Red Cross, and did not seem deterred by the uncertain conditions.

“I’m excited to go,” she said. “I like to help people.”

Jim Kerrigan of Old Orchard Beach was being deployed for the first time with Red Cross. Although he didn’t have previous experience volunteering at a disaster site, he did have experience backpacking, having walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 

“I just have no expectations,” said Kerrigan, but said he was going to be of help in any way he could. Kerrigan was wearing a lightweight, quick drying hiking shirt and had thoughtfully filled his backpack with necessities, including not only protein bars but toilet paper, a first aid kit and a water purifier kit.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


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