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Volunteers Headed To Gulf Coast Receive Red Cross Training

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Images from the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast have moved Vardell Smyth and his wife, Joan, into action. The Fuquay-Varina couple is gearing up to head into the disaster zone for three weeks as Red Cross volunteers.

"It's incredible. I never thought I would see anything like this in the United States," Vardell Smyth said. "The least I can do is take time out of my life to help."

Thomas and Charlene Banks are leaving behind high-tech jobs to also become Red Cross disaster helpers.

"I feel helpless, hopeless and by me volunteering, hopefully it will bring something to it," said Charlene Banks.

A crash course in Wake County on Friday and Saturday is preparing the Smyths and Bankses -- and about 100 other people -- on what to expect once they get there.

All of them are putting their own lives on hold. Some are leaving families, taking unpaid leave from work, and giving up their vacations.

"Vacation is fun when there aren't a lot of people in need, and right now it's more important than enjoying myself," said Joan Smyth.

While there is no set departure date for this group of volunteers, once the volunteers go to sites along the Gulf Coast, each volunteer will likely stay at least three weeks.

The volunteers will provide victims with counseling and financial assistance. They will also help serve about 10 million meals each day.

But everyone agrees the most important thing these North Carolinians will take to Hurricane Katrina survivors is hope.

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