Every time there’s a natural emergency in the United States now, Diane Radel of Redwood Falls waits for the phone call.
The Red Cross knows a good volunteer when they see one.
“(Hurricane Sandy was) my seventh natural disaster,” Radel said last week. “I joined the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“SInce then I’ve been down south for Hurricanes Isaac and Ike, for ice storms in Kansas and Iowa, and the southeast Minnesota floods of 2007.
On Nov. 11, Radel was one of 27 Minnesota volunteers who left for the east coast, and Hurricane Sandy.
“All you need to do is give them three weeks of your time, all-expenses paid,” Radel said. “My family was very supportive, especially over Thanksgiving break.”
In addition, Radel had to take three weeks off from her position at REM to volunteer.
After being briefed in Manhatten, Radel was assigned an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) in Long Island.
Her mission: deliver hot meals to residents trapped in homes without heat or power.
“Disasters are always crazy. I was assigned four partners, and the fourth one finally stuck,” Radel said.
“For three weeks, we lived in a college gymnasium in Long Island. There were 350 other volunteers all sleeping on cots. It was like a big slumber party.”
The food was cooked every day by Southern Baptist volunteers 20 miles away from the college.
Sometimes the Red Cross volunteers would drive to a park or other site to serve meals.
Other times Radel would just drive up and down the Long Island streets, calling out to people in their homes that food was available.
And other days, Radel and the volunteers would deliver huge insulated tubs of meals to people.
“We did one drop off in Chinatown, to 1,200 people in a senior low-income highrise,” Radel said.
“The people were so appreciative. When we were out driving they would toot their horns, or give us a thumbs up.
“One man stopped his car and came over to give us money. We told him we couldn’t accept it. He asked how much we got paid, and we said we were volunteers,” said Radel. “That blew his mind. He just walked away shaking his head. He couldn’t believe it.”
What was the hardest part of helping out in the Hurricane Sandy aftermath?
“Grown men would come up to get their food, and we’d give them a bit of empathy, and they’d start crying, just sobbing,” Radel said. “They were trying so hard to stay strong for their families.”
Page 2 of 2 - Radel said the best thing about volunteering was seeing neighborhoods pull together.
“People would come out of their houses for a hot meal, and some of them had never met their neighbors. It turned into a big coffee party. They’d see their neighbors and give them hugs.”