By: Jerrica Williams
American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles circle the block, kitchen staff loads the large red containers with hot food, and volunteers smile ear to ear as they show up early to lend a helping hand at the disaster relief operation headquarters in Fort Myers, Florida, on a hot sunny morning.
Hundreds of Red Cross volunteers came from near and far in response to the Hurricane Ian disaster relief operation, a time when all-hands-on-deck is key. The feeding team is one of the most crucial components of service delivery. They are responsible for cooking, packing, and distributing fresh meals to families at shelters and throughout the most seriously affected neighborhoods, as well as to staff at headquarters.
After nineteen deployments beginning with Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Vivian McWilliams is no stranger to showing up to help those in need. The Georgia native has been a volunteer for over six years and says the reason she volunteers is very personal. “The American Red Cross helped my family after Hurricane Katrina.”
McWilliams deployed to Fort Myers to help with the Hurricane Ian relief operation. Her role is to assist the kitchen manager with logistics and troubleshooting at headquarters. Weeks after the hurricane made landfall, it is the last partner kitchen in operation, continuing to provide approximately 4,000 to 6,000 meals daily for Red Cross service delivery. Without Vivian, Emergency Response Vehicles would not be accounted for, and volunteers who are assisting with feeding would not have their daily routes.
The need for Red Cross volunteers is constant. Vivian encourages anyone with extra time to sign up and volunteer for a good cause, even if it’s in your local community. “There’s a job for everybody. Whatever skills or talents you may have, the Red Cross has a job for you.”
The American Red Cross and partner organizations are still working to provide food, water, shelter, and other means of support for families impacted by Hurricane Ian.
For more information about how to get involved, visit redcross.org/volunteer.