— The Mankato Red Cross’ emergency response vehicle sure gets around.
Right now it’s probably pulling in to a Louisiana community getting ready to serve hot meals to anyone whose home has been destroyed or flooded by Hurricane Isaac.
It’s what the vehicle was built for, and in its seven years with the Mankato Red Cross, it’s put on a few miles.
“That rig spent about five months in Katrina (aftermath),” said Bob Meyer, executive director of the Mankato Red Cross.
It’s been to every Gulf Coast state, New York and California. Most recently the Red Cross deployed the rig to Duluth to help with flood relief efforts.
Along with the rig, the Mankato Red Cross sent its first two volunteers along Monday. After a layover in Joplin, Mo., they continued on toward Louisiana. Once they the approach the state, Meyer said, the plan is to hang back a little and wait for the worst of the storm to blow over. After that, they’ll head to wherever relief effort organizers say they’re needed most, but it will most likely be in a Louisiana community.
The volunteers — one from New Ulm and another from Redwood Falls — will use the rig primarily to distribute meals. Meyer said the rig can service hundreds of meals, and that there are already 300,000 pre-made meals waiting to be passed out.
Last night about 800 people stayed in 52 shelters in five states, and more shelters opened today.
About 2,400 trained Red Cross disaster workers from all over the United States have been sent to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Nearly 200 emergency response vehicles are headed that way as well.
In addition to having vehicles help with meals, other vehicles are transporting cleanup and personal hygiene items, cots, blankets, coolers, shovels, rakes, tarps, gloves and masks to the coast.
The Red Cross is seeking volunteers, although it’s probably too late to get deployed as a Red Cross volunteer to help out with Hurricane Isaac relief.
Meyer said they’re recruiting volunteers who can be called into action during the next disaster, whether it’s a family displaced from a house fire in Mankato or a hurricane on the Gulf Coast.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when,’” Meyer said.
All training is done in Mankato and everyone gets trained to do a variety of Red Cross relief functions. People can expect about two days (or parts of two days) of training.
Visit the Mankato Red Cross at 105 Homestead Drive to sign up to volunteer or call 387-6664.