Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Present from Home by Jessica Piffero

Myrtle Beach resident Gregg Maddox said he received the best birthday present this week in the form of the Red Cross. He never anticipated that he would be impacted by a storm the magnitude of Hurricane Matthew less than a year after moving to South Carolina from Waterford, Connecticut. But Gregg now found himself alone, away from home, and without food or electricity on his birthday. 

That's when he heard the honking horn of the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle pulling into his apartment complex, bringing hot meals, fresh fruit, clean water, and snacks. 

“I had heard that there was [a Red Cross vehicle] from Connecticut, and I thought, well that’s interesting, and then this truck came along," said Gregg,  "And I could see the CT but I was too far away. And then as I got closer to the truck I said, ‘Wait a minute! I know that town!’" 

Gregg was overcome with emotion and tears welled up in his eyes as he greeted Joe Apicelli and Lynda Joly, the Red Cross volunteers that had travelled with the emergency response vehicle from their home chapter in Waterford. 

“It was like a little present from home. Just one of those signs in life that you look for,” said Gregg. 

“When he started talking about landmarks that I’m very familiar with, like Waterford High School, the library, the pizza house which he’s craving to go back to, and just the environment, I just knew he was for real," said Joe. 

“I thought it was just amazing that we’re down here in South Carolina, and we run into someone that is from where our home base is," said Lynda. 

Joe and Lynda were deployed to South Carolina to distribute these critical meals and resources to the hardest hit communities. Mobile feeding teams like this one are part of the larger Red Cross disaster relief effort currently underway in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. To date, the Red Cross has mobilized more than 4,400 disaster workers, delivered over 444,000 meals and snacks, and provided 85,000 overnight stays in emergency shelters across the eastern United States. 

For many including Gregg, the hurricane's destruction did not come in the form of flooding or damaged homes. The storm hit at the beginning of the month, when many low income families had just used their food stamps to purchase their food for October. 

"The power not coming back on for day two, then day three, then all the food is gone, and now there’s no more food stamps, no more money in the bank account, and nothing in the fridge. So it’s like, what do you do?” said Gregg, "That was the most difficult part." 

Many residents in the apartment complex said that seeing the Red Cross vehicle is the best part of their day. 

"It’s been pretty awesome. They come twice a day, and it’s the highlight of the day, when the Red Cross is here," said Gregg, "These guys are right on it! They’re quick, they’re fast, they’re friendly, they honk the horn. It’s very happy and uplifting. Of course, they’re from Waterford!” 

“I’ve never been thanked so much in the last 48 hours than I have in my whole entire life," said Joe. "I’ve done American Red Cross for quite a while, and these people are really in need. It’s truly a necessity for them. And I’m honored to represent ALL the American Red Cross volunteers. I’m honored to be part of what I’m doing.” 

“It’s just the most rewarding experience you can have, knowing that you’re helping people,” added Lynda. 

As the last remaining residents picked up their dinners and snacks, Gregg's neighbor Mac McLane leaned over to another resident and commented, "I haven't seen a smile that big on his face since the storm. He's talkin' to home folk." 

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