By TOM HAUER
Hurricane Ian, a devastating Category 4 hurricane, made landfall near Ft. Myers, Fla., on Sept. 28. Darwin residents Chris and Dave Gorder, Red Cross volunteers left, the Minneapolis Red Cross chapter headquarters early Sept. 29 for a 2-week deployment to help people in Florida.
The Gorders took turns driving the Minneapolis chapter ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) and arrived at the Orlando, Red Cross staging area on Oct. 1. The ERV is a $170,000 Mercedes van, donated by Shakopee Mdewakanton Tribe, that is adapted to be a mobile supply/feeding vehicle to aid in disaster relief. The Gorders and their ERV were assigned and arrived for work in the Cape Coral/Ft. Myers area on Oct. 2.
Chris, a retired RN who was serving in her third two-week deployment in the last year, previously volunteered in for the Kentucky tornadoes in 2021 and the New Mexico wildfires in 2022. Dave is a retired teacher/coach (Orono High School) and was on his first Red Cross deployment. Online training in the form of half hour to 1 hour modules are used to prepare potential volunteers for service. The Red Cross provides for necessary travel, lodging, and other necessities while being deployed.
For the next 10 days, they would distribute 250 hot meals twice daily to needy, area residents dealing with the devastating effects of hurricane Ian and related tornadoes. Some of these effects included destroyed or damaged housing, lack of electricity and running water, as well as food/meal shortages. The hot meals were prepared by the North Carolina Baptist Churches who set up a huge mobile kitchen and showering facility at a local Cape Coral church. The Red Cross and Baptist Churches are only two of the many organizations who respond to national disasters. The Red Cross, like many relief organizations depends upon donations to be effective, so the Gorders are hoping people consider the organization when making charitable contributions.
During the Gorder’s deployment, and volunteer lodging was a significant issue. Lack of adequate, safe lodging resulted in their using the ERV for their sleeping quarters. A couple of days after arriving, the Red Cross set up a large, air conditioned tent including cots for volunteer to use.
Near the end of their deployment, Covid became a significant issue for other volunteers, resulting in a mandatory, masking requirement, a difficult addition when dealing with upper 80 degree heat and humidity.
Chris and Dave provided necessary relief for numerous hurricane victims. On numerous occasions, they witnessed evidence of toughness and fortitude being shown in their clients. One of these occasions was a 92-year-old woman who wanted nothing for herself, but made sure that all other adults and children in her neighborhood were provided necessary food and water. Another example of this was of a middle-aged man who became so emotional when receiving the hot meals that he couldn’t get out a “thank you” without choking up with tears.