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Red Cross reaches out after Superstorm

When disaster strikes, American Red Cross volunteers from across the country and beyond rush to offer services ‘“ from fresh water, food, clothing and shelter to home repair, cleaning supplies and health care. As residents of areas hit by Hurricane Sandy surveyed the damage from flooding and high winds, Red Cross volunteers stepped up to help, including Pike County’s Red Cross coordinator Teri Totten. ’It was quite an experience. The pictures and video on TV didn’t do the destruction justice,’ she said. ‘When you pull up and see all the damage first hand, it stops you in your tracks.’ Reports show Hurricane Sandy, although not the most powerful hurricane on record, could be the most destructive, leaving 7.5 million without power and killing 80 Americans. ’This is our biggest U.S. disaster response in more than five years and we’re incredibly grateful for the generous support across the country that enabled us to help the survivors of this storm,’ said Gail McGovern, ARC president. Totten traveled to New Jersey just days after the storm hit and spent more than two weeks helping families there. She worked mostly in Manasquan, a seaside destination which was heavily flooded by the superstorm’s surge, flooding hundreds of homes. ’Homes were filled with sand from where the ocean flooded the neighborhoods,’ Totten said. ‘The families had to throw out everything because of the damage and likelihood of mold growing in their homes. Most of the homes were being completely gutted.’ Many homes and businesses in the area were dislodged from their foundations, boats ended up several blocks from the ocean and the storm surge left unmeasurable amounts of sand in people’s homes and neighborhoods. Red Cross workers from across the nation, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada helped distribute supplies to those affected and lines of vehicles were blocking traffic as they waited to receive water and ice from volunteers. ’The people affected were grateful they were alive and not hurt. They were sad because they lost everything but they had a good perspective, realizing the items they lost were just material things,’ Totten said. ‘They had such a fabulous outlook that they were uplifting to us ‘“ the ones who were supposed to be helping them. There were American flags all over the place and signs that said, ‘˜Sandy will not defeat us.” Several families dug through the remains of their homes and through the sand to find items of sentimental value. Red Cross volunteers could hear them celebrate as they found family heirlooms, personal treasures and other items of importance. Totten walked the neighborhoods of destroyed homes to find out what each family needed. ’I was talking to one family about what they needed as they were digging and the lady was telling me how her husband was a firefighter who had been out helping since the night of the storm,’ Totten said. ‘She had just celebrated finding her children’s christening outfits and was sweeping the whole time we were talking. I thought it was a nervous movement until she dug out her husband’s dress uniform with the bugle and medals. We all had tears streaming down.’ Totten came back home to Pike County the Saturday after Thanksgiving but there are still many families that are receiving help from volunteers like her. ’The Red Cross has provided emergency relief to many people affected by Superstorm Sandy. There is still much work to be done and we’ll continue to provide help and hope for weeks and months to come,’ said McGovern.

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