Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture

Huntley College Staffer Aids Hurricane Relief Effort

Published Date: Nov 2, 2017 2:30:00 PM

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A longtime Huntley College of Agriculture employee spent nearly two weeks this fall volunteering with the American Red Cross for Hurricane Irma disaster relief in Florida.

Holly Greene flew to Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 21 and worked as part of a four-member Emergency Response Vehicle team that went through storm-damaged neighborhoods in Boca Chica Key, Stock Island, and Key West to provide families with water, snacks, and hot meals.

“Mostly these neighborhoods were mobile home parks and housing areas that were home to many service industry workers or people who still did not have electricity,” said Greene, the Department of Animal & Veterinary Sciences’ compliance and safety specialist. “Hotels, motels, and restaurants were closed or destroyed, and many of the clients were without paychecks or jobs.”

The team would deliver 400 lunches in a span of two hours, return to its base for more supplies, and then deliver 400 dinners to the same neighborhoods.

Over a 12-day period, the team delivered more than 6,000 meals to residents. The hot meals were prepared by the kitchen operated by the North Carolina Baptist Men, which had arrived in Florida nine days before Greene.

Many of the residents were hesitant at first about coming up to the vehicle to get food or water, so a team member would walk the community to let people know what was available.

“The people were so grateful for anything we could give them, and they always had a smile for us when we came by,” Greene said. “When you put a Red Cross disaster vest on, which I wore during the day, everyone that saw me or our team would stop and thank us for our service. They would share stories of their journey and tell us to come back to the Keys when they recovered.”

The team witnessed much of the hurricane damage to the communities: homes were destroyed, mobile homes turned on their sides, boats laying on the side of the road, and debris piles littering the sides of the major highway. It also served as the eyes and ears for Red Cross mental health volunteers and the organization’s headquarters.

“The days were long, hot, and humid, but the moments of comfort that we provided to the victims of Hurricane Irma are what really made the volunteer work worthwhile,” Greene said.

Red Cross is Door to Door on the Island of Key West from Dan Halyburton on Vimeo.

Greene, who has worked in the College of Agriculture in different capacities since 1994, discovered the Red Cross volunteering opportunity when she saw a TV news segment on disaster relief efforts four days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida. Feeling like she could make a difference, she signed up and attended three Red Cross training sessions totaling 18 hours.

On Sept. 19, Greene got a phone call from the Red Cross office in Los Angeles, asking her if she was available to deploy within 24 to 48 hours either to Texas or Florida. A volunteer deployment is a minimum of 14 days, including travel days. Greene, who elected to use two weeks’ vacation time for the deployment, picked Florida and flew out to Orlando.

At the Red Cross headquarters there, Greene was directed to report to the base camp in Marathon, Fla., in the Keys. It took her eight hours to get there because of traffic, bad weather, and a delay when the keys were accidentally locked in the car.

Although she stayed in a hotel in Orlando her first night, Greene wound up staying in a shelter at a high school classroom and then the Red Cross disaster relief volunteers were relocated to the Danish Red Cross unit tent basecamp. A mobile tent unit used during disasters which included sleeping tents, showers, laundry facilities and operations tents.

She returned to Southern California on Oct. 4 and had to adjust to returning home after being in a hurricane-devastated community. Nevertheless, Greene counts her volunteering experience as a positive one.

“It was an opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself and helped me realize that we are truly fortunate human beings,” she said.