Jamestown volunteer feeds people in storm-struck N.J.American Red Cross volunteer Dave Smette of Jamestown remains in storm-struck New Jersey, serving hot meals to people whose electricity has been out for more than a week.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
American Red Cross volunteer Dave Smette of Jamestown remains in storm-struck New Jersey, serving hot meals to people whose electricity has been out for more than a week.
“We’re on the road, about 200 meals on board,” Smette said during a conference call Thursday to the Buffalo Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in Jamestown. “We’ll be making two runs today.”
Smette and Dickinson, N.D., volunteer Melissa Shepard drove to the East Coast in an emergency response vehicle from Minot, N.D. A third volunteer rides along with them, delivering hot meals of beef stew, chili or ravioli, as well as packaged self-heating meals to people in need.
The volunteers were hampered by the snow dumped on the area Wednesday, but still hoped Thursday to get 200 lunches served, followed by another 200 meals on a second run in the afternoon.
Smette’s group is staying in Atlantic City, N.J., and commuting to a kitchen set up by the Southern Baptist Church, which is partnering with the Red Cross for disaster relief. The kitchen is located in Waretown, about 35 miles north of Atlantic City.
“It’s a bright, sunny day, with partial clouds today,” Smette reported from the Waretown kitchen Thursday morning. “… we’re not in the worst area, as far as snow.”
Smette said the area had received 3 to 4 inches of wet, heavy snow — still far less than the 12 inches of snow that had hammered the northern parts of the coast.
Each day, the volunteers wake up at about 6 a.m., and hit the road by 7 or 8 a.m. They get to the kitchen at 9 a.m., clean out the emergency response vehicle and wash all the food containers, and load the ERV by 10 a.m.
They serve food in Beachwood, N.J., for about two hours, before returning back to the kitchen, cleaning everything again and heading out to serve more food at about 3:30 p.m. Then the volunteers head back to the kitchen and clean everything up yet again.
They’re back at their motel in Atlantic City by 7:30 p.m.
“Where electricity isn’t, it’s cold, (with) no hot food, so they’re really happy to see us,” Smette said. “The Red Cross is really getting a warm reception out here, for the most part.”
As of Thursday morning, more than 671,000 people still lacked electricity on the East Coast, after it was walloped by Superstorm Sandy and then hammered by a winter storm.
According to Associated Press reports the peak of the power loss, more than 8.5 million homes and businesses went without electricity, and 100 people were killed in the storm.
Many of the volunteers are drawing near the end of their 14-day stints, and the Red Cross needs people to replace them, said Beth Dewald, executive director of the Buffalo Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
More than 300 emergency response vehicles were sent to help people cope with Sandy’s devastation, and volunteers from every state in the nation have flocked to the East Coast.
Smette, a retired school superintendent, was put on standby Oct. 26, was confirmed for departure Oct. 30 and left Oct. 31.
He brought a red cap and vest designating him as a Red Cross volunteer, three pairs of jeans and clothing, a good pair of boots and a coat and a flashlight with extra batteries.
For the first few days, lines for gasoline were very long, and volunteers had a hard time finding diesel for their emergency response vehicle, Smette said.
“It’s been a good experience, quite an experience,” Smette said. “This is my first time on a deployment here.”
How to help
What the Red Cross needs the most at this point is money, which pays for the food, the serving utensils and dishes and the heat-up meals, as well as getting volunteers where they are most needed, Dewald said.
Volunteers are also needed, especially people who can spend 14 days assisting at a disaster scene, but also those who can volunteer for 2-3 hours at a time in their hometowns.
To volunteer with Buffalo Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, call Dewald at 701-252-3550, ext. 2131.
Donations to the American Red Cross can be made at its website, www.red cross.org.
Designating the gift to “disaster relief” helps money get to wherever the need is greatest.
Donations of $10 can also be made by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
More information is available at http://www.red cross.org/ND/Fargo.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at email@example.com