News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 22, 2012

Parke County couple back from helping victims of superstorm Sandy

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Sitting in the small and tidy dining room of their southern Parke County home, Don and Ginny Gorrell are glad to be home.

Sort of.

The truth is, the semi-retired couple just back from 18-days of helping victims of superstorm Sandy for the American Red Cross, would leave again in a minute if called.

“We’d do it again,” Don said.

“In a heartbeat,” added Ginny.

The Gorrells are Red Cross volunteers. From their white, stucco home in the village of Mecca, they typically provide aid and comfort to victims of house fires in Parke County. But, in the wake of superstorm Sandy, they were among the thousands of Red Cross volunteers who traveled to the scene of the devastation to offer the help they could.

“This is humanity,” Ginny said. “This is what you want to do, to help somebody that needs it.”

And need help, they did, in the aftermath of the powerful storm. The Gorrells helped provide meals daily for hundreds of people who had lost their homes to the storm. Oddly, many homes were still standing and appeared undamaged, but they had been ruined by several feet of floodwater, Don said.

“Some of the folks don’t have homes left,” Ginny said. “They were just truly in shock.”

The Gorrells drove one of the Wabash Valley Red Cross Chapter’s emergency response vehicles to the northeast even before the storm struck. They waited in Harrisburg, Pa., as the storm hit the East Coast and then got their orders to move to the areas hardest hit. They first went to West Chester, Pa., then to several cities in New Jersey, including Atlantic City, North Brunswick and Ventnor City, a town of about 10,000 on the New Jersey shore.

Each day for the Gorrells started about 5 a.m. and lasted until about 9 p.m., they said. They were charged with loading meals provided by Southern Baptist relief workers into trucks and then delivering them to storm victims. Each day, they helped feed 300 to 400 people, they said. The Southern Baptists prepared thousands of meals each day, the Gorrells said.

While the days were long and tiring, Don and Ginny both said they enjoyed what they were doing and would happily volunteer again.

“If you were getting paid to do [the work], you wouldn’t do it,” Don said. It was purely a volunteer job to help those in need, he said.

This was not Don or Ginny’s first visit to a disaster area. They both drove Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And Don was among the Wabash Valley Red Cross volunteers who responded to Hurricane Isaac in August.

“I’d go again tomorrow if they called me,” Ginny said. “It was such an honor to help these people because they really, really needed it.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes