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USA: Red Cross serves meals to thousands across gulf states

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Written by Lesly C. Simmons , Staff Writer, RedCross.org

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 -- PENSACOLA, Fla. -- All across the Gulf Coast the American Red Cross is serving thousands of meals to storm-weary residents, giving them one less thing to worry about as they recover from Hurricane Dennis.

The Red Cross has mobilized its fleet of emergency response vehicles (ERVs) from across the country to hand out meals in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. More than 100 ERVs are canvassing neighborhoods affected by Dennis, providing hot meals, snacks and drinks.

In Flomaton, Ala., the Red Cross joined with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and the National Guard to serve meals and pass out water and ice at the Little Escambia Baptist Church.

By Tuesday afternoon more than 1,400 meals were distributed in the church parking lot, and 1,500 more meals went out to the surrounding community in the ERVs while the kitchen crew continued cooking for another round of meals that night.

Red Crosser Marty Durbin made the 1,200 mile drive in an ERV from Rochester, N.Y., with her husband Alan. The couple has been volunteering with the Red Cross for about a year and a half since they retired and found that the Red Cross was a place where they could volunteer together.

"We've worked on a lot of local disasters, but this is our first hurricane," said Durbin. "We're just glad we can help out the folks here. Every little bit counts."

In Pensacola, Fla., a specially-trained crew prepared 2,000 meals today in a mobile kitchen unit donated by SYSCO. The unit houses four large ovens and two large braisers, designed to prepare large quantities of food. The staff went through two days of training in December to familiarize themselves with the equipment.

"This is my first time in action with this kitchen," said Delfina Garza of the Red Cross Matagorda chapter and a member of the SYSCO kitchen crew in Pensacola. "It's quite easy to use, and we have a good crew. We're here on a 21-day assignment, so we'll be cooking for as long as they need us."

The need may exist for a while longer, especially with the possible threat of yet another hurricane looming over the area. Tropical Storm Emily is still currently far south in the Caribbean, and forecasters are watching it closely as it gains strength and heads for land.

American Red Cross
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.