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Tennessee Mountain Valley Volunteers Remember Sandy Deployment

People would come up to our truck and say I haven’t had a hot meal in days.

At first many in the media jokingly referred to it as “Frankenstorm”, a tropical system in the Atlantic that was set to make landfall on or around October 31, 2012. But as Sandy became stronger and moved closer to millions of people living along the Northeast coast, the seriousness of the situation became aware and “Frankenstorm” became “Superstorm Sandy”, the most damaging hurricane to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina.

Luckily, the American Red Cross saw the potentially devastating effects of the storm days in advance. Responding proactively, volunteers began mobilizing to help victims of the imminent disaster. Marty Gensheimer was one of those asked to respond before the storm made landfall. Gensheimer, a volunteer for nearly ten years, was even he was surprised by the damage he saw. “It’s up there with one of the worst storms I’ve ever seen,” said Gensheimer. “There was a lot of chaos; there was a lot of power out.”

The 8.5M without power was just one of the problems people in eleven states were facing. The 900-mile category 3 hurricane was responsible for 160 deaths and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of homes.

Gensheimer drove the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) from the Tennessee Mountain Valley Chapter to Long Island, New York. Gensheimer lives in Knoxville and navigating the streets of New York was not something he was initially comfortable with. “I’m not a big city boy. Driving in big cities is difficult for me.” For the next two weeks, he delivered supplies and hot meals to storm victims. “People would come up to our truck and say I haven’t had a hot meal in days,” recounts Gensheimer. “We handed out whatever they needed – blankets, food, water.”

Even Red Cross volunteers suffered the effects of the storm. Gensheimer says, “6-8 inches of snow came in from the nor’easter. Our truck was stuck in the snow until we could get it out the next day.”

Throughout his deployment, Gensheimer logged hundreds of miles and helped distribute thousands of meals. “I was glad I went. They certainly needed a lot of help.”

Despite it being a year since “Frankenstorm” made landfall, many are still haunted by its memory. Recovery efforts continue, and the costs are staggering. The American Red Cross has spent more than $280M in relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy. Thousands are still looking for permanent housing since their neighborhood was washed out a year ago.

“I’m so proud of the work Marty and the dozens of other Red Cross volunteers from East Tennessee,” said Regional CEO Michelle Hankes. “We are the Volunteer State for a reason and the sacrifice our community made to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy is immeasurable.”

Hankes says, “Our work has helped millions put Sandy behind them, but there is still more that needs to be done. The Red Cross continues helping thanks to the generosity of our donors and the selfless work of our volunteers.”