GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- People nationwide are heading southeast to help in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, including at least six West Michigan American Red Cross volunteers providing relief between Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina.
Volunteers Cindy Olsen and Penny Raap packed supplies alongside their manager Leonard Garyson to drive to Charleston Friday. Olsen just drove that Red Cross emergency relief vehicle back from flooding relief efforts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana less than 48 hours ago.
Olsen and Raap will team with volunteers feeding the already 650 people displaced among the 38 South Carolina shelters already in place. Raap said they will be taking care of the immediate needs of those displaced, providing cots to sleep, snacks, water, and three meals daily.
This is volunteer work both women have done for the past four years, including sacrificing time away from their families, heading out for at least two weeks now.
“I love people and I love life," said Olsen. "And to be able to touch somebody’s life and help them in a way that they wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for the Red Cross.”
“I think I’m always nervous for the unknown, you don’t know what’s going to happen but as soon as you get in and you start working," said Raap, "you’re ready to go.”
They're not going empty-handed: Garyson showed FOX 17 boxes of donations as he began to pack some of the 22,000 pairs of gloves, water, even games and stuffed animals that will help comfort many families forced to leave their homes.
"Whatever they can do to make the people comfortable while they’re there, the Red Cross will try its best to do,” said Garyson. "The [volunteers] make that sacrifice to help other people, at the same time they're going through the same devastation; really proud of them right now."
Meanwhile, Allegiant Air cancelled its flight scheduled Friday evening from Grand Rapids to Orlando as these women drive southeast.
The American Red Cross is asking for urgent blood donations, especially blood type O, along with calls for financial and volunteer assistance to help with continued hurricane relief. See their website to help.
If you need help to determine if your loved ones are safe, or if you were affected by the hurricane, you can search for people or register yourself as safe on the American Red Cross' sponsored program, Safe and Well.