STORY: Cal Berkeley student spends break as Red Cross volunteer

Written by Carl Manning

When Michelle Carney took her winter break as a student at the University of California-Berkeley, she knew she wanted to do more than hang out with friends and family.

Active in the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter in San Francisco for the past three years, Michelle knew she could help those affected by Hurricane Sandy that struck the East Coast.

For over two weeks Michelle has been among those working on a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle handing out hot food, drinks, and snacks in the hard-hit Rockaways on Long Island, NY. She said the hot meals have been especially appreciated in frigid temperatures by those unable to cook in their homes.

Since the storm struck in October, much has changed in the Rockaways. Tons of sand that once covered the streets has been removed and electrical power has been restored to much of the area. Yet, there is still a need to provide food and other basic necessities to people striving to recover from the disaster.

“We want to be out here helping and this is the most hands-on way to provide assistance,” she said.

At the beginning of the year, the Red Cross still was distributing about 7,000 meals a day in the New York area and had provided some 5.3 million meals and snacks since relief operations began.

Providing hot meals on Christmas day to those who otherwise might not have had them is one memory that Michelle will take back of actually making a difference.

“We were here to be a substitute family so people wouldn’t have to be alone for the holidays,” Michelle said. “It’s the little things that we take for granted that mean so much.”

As Michelle plans her return to school, the question is whether she would do this again.

“Yeah, of course,” she said, “I really enjoyed going out and helping people and I felt fulfilled.”

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