FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Two weeks ago Hurricane Ida made landfall as a devastating Category 4 storm in Louisiana. As Ida made landfall, Red Cross volunteers from across the country were already on their way to help with recovery efforts. Bob Harkness and Dale Vollenweider were two of those volunteers from the Northeast Indiana branch of the Red Cross.
They were assigned to help LaPlace, Louisiana, one of the hardest-hit areas, as they followed a strict routine to distribute about 200 meals each trip.
“We have to roll to the field kitchen to pick up our loads of food on schedule and then get to the affected neighborhoods. Our particular assigned neighborhood was about 45 minutes away. So, it takes time to pack up the food put straps on them,” described Vollenweider, “Then when you get to the other end and unpack, get ready and sanitize. Then prepare the meals and pass them out, and then turn around, do the whole thing over again for the second meal for the dinner meal, and so it’s just a lot of driving and packing and sanitizing.”
This isn’t the first hurricane disaster assistance that Vollenweider has been a part of but he does describe it as some of the worst he’s ever seen as a volunteer. Snapped power poles still remain, as residents are still without power after two weeks and are unlikely to get it anytime soon. The flooding associated with the storm resulted in dead fish in the streets after the water receded, while ruined household belongings line neighborhood curbs.
“There are just mountains of drywall and bedding and clothing, furniture and appliances, out on the curb, of the homes we drove past,” said Vollenweider, “They need to have that all collected as the smell is just horrendous, food and mold, and the rotting goods are really make it unpleasant to be there”
While the trips back and forth from the neighborhoods may make for long days, Vollenweider says it is worth it to help those who had their lives turned upside down by Ida.
“Homeowners are so exhausted, they’ve been working just dawn to dusk since there’s no light, so they have to get up with the sun, and go to bed when it goes down. To tear out drywall and remove the furniture and the appliances and their bedding and clothing, and it’s hot work because there’s also no air conditioning. And so when we roll up with the van filled with hot meals, they’re just so grateful because many times that would be the only hot meal they’re likely to see,” Vollenweider explained, “The relief on their faces to know that somebody cares and somebody has made an effort to come visit, and show that we are behind them, really, is wonderful to hear. They just can’t say thank you enough to the Red Cross.”
There is a ton of work still to be done and Vollenweider will go back again when he can. You can also help by donating to the Red Cross or by becoming a volunteer by clicking here.