By Dale Steinke
With millions of people affected by the catastrophic 2017 hurricane season, the American Red Cross mounted an unprecedented response from all over the country to deliver critically needed food and supplies.
Among those called up were Red Cross volunteers David and Sherrie Allen of Whidbey Island, WA. They picked up a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) in Vancouver, WA, then drove to Florida. There they spent several hours on the road delivering hundreds of meals every day for two weeks.
“We rolled into a neighborhood in Sarasota, a trailer park that was mostly senior citizens, that had been without power for about 10 days. We were the first sign that anybody cared about those folks,” David Allen said. “When we started serving food, they were crying, we were crying. They were very grateful that anybody cared.”
The Allens, along with a third volunteer, Preston Granillo, would rise early in the morning, load the ERV at a field kitchen run by the Southern Baptist Convention, then drive two hours north to Sarasota. There, they’d serve about 300 meals, then turn around to pick up and deliver a second meal, finally turning in around 10 p.m. each night.
Including the drive to Florida, they logged a total of more than 9,000 miles.
VIDEO LINK: Watch the path of Red Cross ERV’s during the historic 2017 disaster season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFQpa2kURas
It was hard and sometimes frustrating work trying to get to people who need help, but the couple said it was worth it to know they were making a difference.
“We got pretty close to those people very quickly,” Sherrie Allen said. “I’ll remember their faces forever.”
The day utility trucks showed up to restore power was a great relief for the couple.
When they finally returned home, they got another call about nine days later to take an ERV to serve meals to firefighters battling the California wildfires near Santa Rosa.
It’s those experiences they hope to share on Friday, March 30, 2018 when the Red Cross and Haggen Northwest Fresh stores will collect monetary donations at stores to replenish ERV disaster supplies. Shoppers throughout Whatcom, Island and Skagit counties also will get the chance to check out Red Cross disaster vehicles and talk with volunteers, including the Allens.
Expect to hear some compelling stories if you meet them. “We did work in these ERVs. We know that your money is going to go directly to food for someone who has a need,” Sherrie Allen said. It’s something the people in that Sarasota neighborhood told them repeatedly.
“Nobody else cared about us and you came.”