American Red Cross disaster volunteer “Safety Sue” Marticek has her hands full as dorm manager for more than 340 residents – from a month old to the high side of 80 – in the evacuation shelter in Toms River, N.J.
Outside winds were gusting above 60 miles an hour, knocking out traffic lights, snapping trees and covering the roads with debris.
But Marticek is an island of calm in the storm, inside and out. She patiently and honestly answers questions, comforts anxious clients and keeps the gymnasium-turned dormitory at Pine Belt Arena organized with Red Cross volunteers and manpower from partner organizations and governmental agencies.
“Everyone has been very appreciative of the Red Cross staff here,” she said. “Many have endured a white-knuckle drive to get to the shelter. It’s comforting they know they are safe here.”
“I think the build-up to this storm was that this would be unprecedented and many people took that to heart, so we have a lot of people who have never been in a shelter before,” said the veteran of half a dozen major disasters and innumerable local ones since she joined the Red Cross after 9/11.
“I just tell them that we’re all in this together and we’re going to get through it. The Red Cross name and presence goes far.
“When they see the Red Cross, they feel like they’re going to be OK.”
During the pre-landfall period and through the worst of the storm, she reassures residents with a calm smile
“You’re going to be our guest” until the authorities declare the emergency lifted. In the meantime, the Red Cross is providing a safe place to be, food and a sense of security – all of it made possible by the support of generous donations from the American people.
“The thing is, when you support the Red Cross, you can see what your donations are being used for,” Marticek said. “It’s hands-on help for people who are in real need.
“I mean it from my heart. That’s why I can get up and tell people, this is your compassion at work.”
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