Written By: Dan Bedell/Canadian Red Cross
A large hand-written billboard in the center of the main avenue in Ship Bottom, NJ, on Thanksgiving Day offered a free turkey dinner to residents, recovery and restoration crews working throughout the community, and for that matter, “All are Welcome.”
Parked a few steps away in front of a local church hall were a pair of Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) that had delivered the freshly cooked food.
The church hall was also where 15 volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention were working from dawn to dusk, helping residents remove mountains of flood-contaminated furniture and other items from their homes, or cleaning and repairing houses.
“It may be the most memorable Thanksgiving dinner they’ll ever have, all things considered,” said Red Cross ERV volunteer Holly Parmer of Maquoketa, IA.
ERV driver Jeff Blankenship of Canton, OH, agreed, adding it was extra rewarding to deliver those meals, knowing the significance of the day for many.
“We’re definitely where we needed to be on Thanksgiving,” said Blankenship.
Besides her own work teams, Convention volunteer Janice Jaiski was setting tables complete with Thanksgiving decorations for dozens more people from the disaster-ravaged Jersey Shore community, whom she expected would join them for what she hoped would be a joyous, uplifting break from the daunting task of storm recovery.
The traditional Thanksgiving meals – including turkey, mashed potatoes and pies – were among the 7,500 prepared by Southern Baptist Convention crews at Red Cross kitchens including one 15 miles away in Waretown, NJ, and delivered by Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) teams from New Jersey and across the country.