As Hurricane Florence, a dangerous Category 4 hurricane, makes it way to the east coast, volunteers with the Iowa region of the Red Cross are heading towards the storm.
On Monday, 12 volunteers left for the Carolinas with more preparing to head out the following day on Tuesday from Cedar Rapids in their emergency response vehicles. One of those volunteers was Maurice Evans from Sioux City. Evans, has been with the Red Cross since 2007. In that time, he’s deployed to help with Hurricanes Ike, Isaac, and Sandy.
"You know it’s coming. You can prepare to get out of its way but yet still, it’s scary. It’s very scary," Evans said.
Inside, the Red Cross vehicle, a number of red food crates were stacked atop of each other. Evans said they store a number of different types of food from spaghetti to Salisbury steak which they’ll be able to deliver to those displaced in shelters once they get to Virginia.
"We’re getting them down to the Carolinas and Virginia just to get ahead of the storm so we’re prepared for when the storm hits," South/Eastern Iowa Red Cross Chapter Executive Director Pami Erickson said.
Making the long trip with Evans, was fellow volunteer,John Shirkey of Oelwein. Like Evans, Shirkey has his experience responding to hurricanes. Last year, he spent nearly a month in Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
"There was a lot of damage," Shirkey said about the neighborhoods they were in. "Everything from the drywall, all the studs, to everything in the house; couch, chairs, TV, everything was on the curb."
On top of heading to the east cost, the Red Cross has been kept busy assisting with flooding in Des Moines and a devastating tornado in Marshalltown.
"We have volunteers that were there and now have rolled up their sleeves again and are ready to go," Erickson said.
Shirkey said disasters like the ones they’ve experienced are devastating for people not only emotionally but financially.
"It’s a way to give back to the community and in this case, the community is the United States," Shirkey said. "If I can sit and talk to someone or help someone with a meal, it’s very gratifying."
In the face of tragedy, Red Cross hopes to be the difference and to provide hope. Evans said they can be the difference of a baby getting milk or treating someone’s wound before an infection begins.
"It’s not the words that are said," Evans said. "The best reward you can get is a hug. When they hug you and say ‘thank you’, that’s icing on the cake."
Those looking to contribute to the Red Cross can text the word "FLORENCE" to 90999 to make $10 donation.