Red Cross volunteer from Minnesota assists with Hurricane Ian relief

Devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian has some Floridians still scrambling to meet their basic needs.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 7:57 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2022 at 8:09 PM CDT
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MARSHALL, Minn. (KEYC) - Devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian has some Floridians still scrambling to meet their basic needs.

That’s where people like Marielle Thomas come in.

The American Red Cross volunteer left her home in Marshall right after Ian hit.

“They said ‘We’re here, we have no power, we’re hungry, we’re out of food, we need help,’” Marielle Thomas described. “We turned in there, and we were met by a lot of hungry people.”

Last week, she met up with another volunteer from South Dakota and headed south in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).

“They have these windows like a food truck,” explained Leah Pockrandt, Executive Director at American Red Cross serving Southwest Minnesota. “They will go out with pre-packaged meals and provide them to people.”

Thomas’ team was one of the first to arrive in hard-hit areas.

“Along the way, you could really see where things were bad. That was particularly driving past the Fort Myers area,” Thomas mentioned.

The team will be there for about two weeks.

Each day, they’ll drive the ERV to find people in need in places like mobile home parks and senior living facilities.

“A woman came out, and she was standing there with her cane, and she’s in her 80s. She said ‘I am so grateful to see you.’ They had very little water, only a trickle of water, and their roof was ripped off, but they were still staying there,” Thomas recalled. “This was the first hot meal that these people had received. I call it delivering hope because when you come meet these people after what they’ve been through, it’s delivering hope that things are going to get better.”

Thomas and her team deliver MREs to hundreds of people several times a day.

“We’re going back out later today. We’re taking lunch and then going out on another round this afternoon,” Thomas said.

She says the need is great and expects it to only get bigger.

But even in their darkest hour, Floridians are giving back and pushing through it together.

“Every single one of them was thanking us and wanted to give us money but we can’t take it. They’re combining it into a donation and giving it back to the Red Cross,” Thomas added. “The gratitude is so deep. It makes every day worth it.”

You can support disaster relief by giving online or signing up to volunteer.