Story: A Volunteer’s Tale

This story is written by Red Cross worker Jane Bowden in New Jersey.

Red Cross Sandy Relief

Volunteerism started early for the lady who has been in charge of the kitchens at the busy Red Cross run shelter in Tuckerton, New Jersey. Although she signed up to help the Red Cross at the age of 14, this disaster response is only her third. During the Joplin and Isaac relief operation, she worked in Staff services.

Carol-Lee Gugluizzo lives in New Jersey and volunteers for the Jersey Coast Chapter at Tinton Falls. When she and another volunteer, first walked into the newly set up shelter at the Pineland Regional Junior High School in Tuckerton the day before the storm, Police Officers were already registering people. It quickly became obvious that the priority was to get the kitchens up and running as quickly as possible.

She had just sold a Bed and Breakfast business, so as so often happens in the field, she found herself being volunteered to take charge the catering which involved acquiring food, preparing and serving it. She admitted she was reluctant to take on the job, but admits that it’s in a volunteer’s DNA to do whatever needs to be done to help.

When Sandy hit the following day, there was a huge influx of cold and hungry clients and when the power went out, she had to resort to serving heater meals.

Carol-Lee quickly realized that she would have to enlist the help of the local community, if she was going to be able to meet the challenge of feeding so many people and she didn’t have to ask twice. Donated food from local restaurants and stores started arriving at the Shelter by the truckload.

From businesses like ACME, the dollar store, WaWa and the Dynasty Diner who called their chef in specially to prepare food. Don Brown, who owns a restaurant on Long Beach gave the shelter $15,000 worth of restaurant food, including shrimp, crab and scallops. Individuals approached other businesses, asking them to donate food and delivered it to the Kitchens themselves. At the peak, the kitchens were feeding 700 people, three meals a day.

Then a team of spontaneous volunteers came forward, some of them shelter residents, signed up and worked every shift in the kitchen, day after day.. The cafeteria became to social hub for Shelter residents The morale was extraordinary and the announcements about dinner menus became an evening entertainment. On the night that the local ACME store provided 200 pieces of fried chicken the whole team got up on the stage and did the Chicken dance.

Carol Lee Gugluizzo praised local people and businesses who she said had had risen above the disaster in the most magnificent way. Their dedication to helping others has been astounding. My spontaneous volunteers have been working all day and every day, even though their own homes have been either damaged or even destroyed and some of them didn’t know if they still had a home or not?

The Red Cross Shelter Manager Paige Shaw described Carol-Lee Gugluizzo as a powerhouse and praised her organizational abilities and the fact that she had gone that extra mile to make the clients as comfortable as possible. This Red Cross story of going above and beyond, is being repeated throughout the disaster area.

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