(Story and Photo by Jay Lawrence, Volunteer)
It was a convergence unlike anything the middle Georgia city had ever seen. Parked side by side under a shed at the Macon Farmer’s Market, more than 30 Red Cross emergency response vehicles from across the country were poised to go as the rains of Florence were flooding the Carolinas.
And as they waited, raring to move out as soon as it was safe, the 60-plus volunteers who drive the red-and-white vehicles had a chance to meet peers from across the country.
“It’s awesome to see so many people who are willing to sacrifice their time and their everyday lives to help people,” said one of them, Allie Stevens of Mobile, AL, sitting by a new friend.
“It was unreal,” added Carol Riddell of Fort Collins, CO. “I saw all this and I thought, ‘Whoa.’”
Riddell and her partner were driving across the country to North Carolina when they got a phone call re-directing them temporarily to Macon.
“Seeing all these people warms my heart,” Riddell said. “You meet so many wonderful people – and characters too – just a wide range of people.”
Now in her fifth disaster assignment, Riddell had wanted to volunteer for a long time. She was able to do so after retiring from hospital work about a year ago.
Stevens was in his fourth Red Cross deployment. The Marine veteran and former cross-country walker had found himself in disasters several times, “and in every one the Red Cross was there,” he said. He decided to join in. “The Red Cross is an organization that is always giving,” he added.
Each vehicle can deliver up to 500 hot meals per trip in a disaster area, or distribute all kinds of emergency supplies. Stevens and Riddell and the other volunteers were using the time for last-minute vehicle inspections and preparation, and training to improve their skills.
“They’re ready and chomping at the bit,” said Adelaide Kirk, executive director of the West Central Red Cross in Georgia, also assigned to the disaster.
“They’ll send us out soon and we’ll be helping people,” Riddell said. “That’s why I joined the Red Cross.”