Contributed by Elizabeth Shemaria, a Red Cross Regional Communications Specialist in San Francisco
The American Red Cross Gateway to the Golden State Region played an important role in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts since the Superstorm hit. The region deployed more people than any other Red Cross region in the country, sending 300 volunteers, and six emergency response vehicles to aid areas in great need. The Bay Area Chapter sent 97 volunteers since October, including some people who went on multiple deployments.
Volunteers helped with everything from shelter operations, to driving emergency response vehicles. George Eade, a Bay Area volunteer from Novato, was deployed to Coney Island in New York to help as a Client Caseworker, providing emotional support to those devastated by the storm.
When he arrived on the island, George said the gas, electricity, and phone lines had been out for weeks. Families were living in the dark and without running water or plumbing.
“The destruction that you can see is just a tiny fraction of the disruptiveness caused by a disaster,” he said. “You can’t see the chasm that remains between a family and what they used to think of as normal.”
George said he helped a “grateful man with a broad smile and limited English” start the recovery process. The auto repair shop owner told George how the salty, cold waters of the Atlantic rushed into his shop and swept him off his feet. As the 40-year-old Yemeni immigrant found himself pinned to a back wall with no way to escape, he punched a hole in the ceiling and pulled himself into the rafters, waiting several hours for the waters to recede. The man’s parting words to George were, “America is the greatest country. American people care. American people listen. American people help.”
The Red Cross has sent more than 17,000 trained workers from around the nation to help. They have:
- Served more than 17 million meals and snacks
- Handed out nearly 7 million relief items including cold weather items and clean-up supplies
- Provided more than 113,000 health services and emotional support contacts for people who have been living in very tough conditions
- Provided more than 81,000 shelter stays