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Volunteer Helps Feed Thousands in NY on Thanksgiving

Mitch Henry
After a large operation, I often feel I’ll never do it again, but after I’ve had some time to reflect, I’m ready to go...

Who do you call when faced with the task of preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 6,000 guests?

Mitch Henry, an American Red Cross volunteer, would be a good choice. Henry is the site manager for the kitchen and distribution operation in Deer Park, Long Island, N.Y. This location supplied Thanksgiving dinners to people affected by Hurricane Sandy in Long Island communities, including Long Beach, Lindenhurst, Seaford and Island Park.

Henry was certainly not alone in this endeavor. The Southern Baptist Convention set up huge mobile kitchen facilities on the site that are capable of preparing more than 10,000 meals a day.

On Thanksgiving they prepared 6,000 lunches, consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, rolls and corn bread, and apple pie. Twenty-six Red Cross emergency vehicles, each with three crew members, fanned out in the communities and distributed the holiday dinners at both fixed and mobile sites. A large cadre of additional volunteers also worked to make the operation run smoothly.

Henry began work as a volunteer with the Red Cross with the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina and has had a hand in almost every major relief effort since that time. This is his 37th deployment.

The Red Cross is “American people helping American people,” said Henry, when asked why he continues to volunteer for such a demanding task. “After a large operation, I often feel I’ll never do it again, but after I’ve had some time to reflect, I’m ready to go again.”

Henry is from Whittier, Calif., and has two daughters. Knowing he would be spending Thanksgiving Day away from them, a tear crept down his cheek as he spoke about missing them. Henry can come across as a gruff fellow as he directs his staff and puffs on a cigar, but when he talks about his volunteers he offers high praise, and a touch of emotion creeps into his voice.

In addition to volunteering for major disaster relief operations, he is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member at his local Red Cross chapter. DAT teams respond and provide assistance for local emergencies such as house fires, flooding or other events in which people are displaced. He is also a Red Cross instructor, and routinely teaches the driving course for emergency vehicles and other higher level courses for Red Cross disaster volunteers.

Sandy Relief Operation Continues

The Red Cross continues to help people in New York and New Jersey, where the effects of Sandy are still disrupting lives almost one month after the destructive storm made landfall.

The extensive Red Cross feeding operation continues this week in New York, and in New Jersey, the Red Cross will open service locations where local residents can get meals, disaster supplies or meet with caseworkers to begin their recovery planning.

In partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Red Cross has served more than 7.3 million meals and snacks since Sandy made landfall. The Red Cross has also handed out more than 5.1 million relief items, including cold weather items and clean-up supplies.

Red Cross volunteers are continuing to drive through neighborhoods to hand out water, food and relief supplies in more than 300 feeding trucks as well as rental cars, trucks and other vehicles. Right now, nearly 6,100 Red Cross workers are supporting shelters, providing food and water at fixed sites, and driving through neighborhoods to distribute meals and supplies. About 90 percent of these workers are volunteers from all over the country.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.