WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Local volunteers from the D.C. area are in Florida taking care of evacuees and preparing to give supplies to those in need.
Thousands of people spent Tuesday night in shelters but many are staying put and waiting out the storm.
Volunteers are critical to helping people as the storm hits and especially afterward.
Thousands of Floridians were told to evacuate their homes with no place to go.
“There’s a few hundred shelters right now in Florida with tens of thousands of people in them overnight,” said Dale Kunce, CEO for the Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region. “They’re making sure they had a safe place last night and making sure they have a safe place tonight.”
The American Red Cross is one of the biggest organizations running those shelters, with about 20 volunteers from the D.C. area on the ground.
“Volunteers from the DMV that are here are working in shelters, they’re working in operations, leadership roles, making sure that everything is really needs to be working in logistics roles,” Kunce said. “Is the truck with the stuff at the right place at the right time?”
Kunce says they’re hunkered down right now in Orlando.
“As the storm passes, we’ll shift our focus to making sure that people do have long term shelter if they need that, if their home has been destroyed, make sure that they have food make sure they have water,” Kunce said.
To that end, other organizations including D.C. based World Central Kitchen are gearing up to feed tens of thousands of people.
“Our hot meal service will start tomorrow and our chefs are preparing some pasta Bolognese and salads to accompany that as well,” said Fiona Donovan, director of relief operations with World Central Kitchen. “So it’s all hands on deck here just to make as many sandwiches as possible. We’re shooting for 10,000 today.”
Donovan is in Tampa with teams ready to mobilize across the state.
“Our team is ready to serve over 40,000 meals a day. And from there we’ll be increasing our capacity every day to scale to meet the need,” Donovan said.
They have about 25 people working Wednesday in Tampa and will be welcoming volunteers on Thursday. There’s also a small team closer to Ft. Myers where more damage is expected.
“We’re really tracking the storm surge the wind speeds, the anticipated flooding and being prepared to send teams in as soon as it’s safe to get boots on the ground and be ready to serve,” Donovan said.
The Red Cross says the best way to help is through financial donations so they can determine what supply needs are and they’re urging people to donate blood too.