When disaster strikes, Red Cross workers are a familiar sight, offering shelter and food to victims. Behind the scenes, there is an army of volunteers working to keep the mobile food and supply trucks rolling.
Jeff Bryant, from the Monterey Bay Area Chapter, is one such volunteer. This past November, Jeff spent three weeks in New Jersey assisting Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.
There was an outpouring of support from people and businesses following Superstorm Sandy. It was Jeff's job to distribute the desperately needed supplies.
Jeff, who had previous experience in the distribution of supplies after a 2012 deployment to assist with Hurricane Issac relief efforts, was quickly promoted to supervisor, overseeing drivers, 100 trucks, and the loading and dispatching operations at a five-acre warehouse.
"One night five semi-trailer trucks came in, they had been as far away as Tennessee picking up donations from Dick's Sporting Goods stores,” Jeff said. “The drivers said while they were at the Dick's stores, employees were running around literally pulling stuff off the shelves because they were so keen to help!"
The trucks would go out on 45-50 routes a day, delivering supplies statewide to shelters, community centers, and directly to people who had lost all their possessions.
Although Jeff was in touch with headquarters, his team was often trusted to decide where to deliver supplies. The team delivered more than 1.7 million items to those affected, especially in low-lying coastal communities.
Jeff and his team faced fuel and food shortages. Truck drivers drove through bad weather and road closures and often returned late to the warehouse. With the operation running all day and many nights, Jeff spent the three-week deployment sleeping on a cot in the warehouse.
Despite the challenges, Jeff’s team turned the warehouse into an efficient operation. Making a difference in times of disaster and working with other volunteers has been Jeff's inspiration.
"My wife, Marj, and I have donated to the American Red Cross during emergencies for decades,” he said. “So, I learned that the Red Cross could train me and once trained, deploy me as part of an equipped and effective relief and recovery system.”
Jeff enjoys working with the motivated and like-minded volunteers he meets while deployed.
Jeff, who is from Salinas, taught biology, meteorology, geology, and oceanography in high schools and later to school teachers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for 40 years before retiring.