Michigan Volunteers Ray and Janie Deliver Hot Meals, Water to People Impacted by Hurricane Ian

Disaster services volunteers Ray Bongartz and his wife, Janie Barner, are among the team of volunteers from the American Red Cross Michigan Region deployed to Florida to support the disaster relief and response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. They are serving hot meals and drinks to people in communities impacted by the storm.

They do this from a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), one of five specially designed vehicles from the Michigan Region dispatched to Florida. Currently, the Red Cross has more than 100 ERVs delivering these meals each day in Florida. ERVs are the backbone of the Red Cross disaster relief delivery system. They are instrumental in almost every phase of a disaster response – from positioning people, cots and blankets before a disaster strikes to distributing food and drinks after the disaster. They are essential to delivering vital services and bringing survivors hope that recovery is possible.

In their own words: Watch Ray and Janie speak about their experiences and why volunteering with the Red Cross of Michigan is rewarding: https://bit.ly/3TdiMCS

Ray and Janie serve hot meals three times daily from a large feeding window at the back of the ERV. Large volumes of food are prepared daily and packaged by the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, which sets up field kitchens at disaster sites and are among the many nonprofit and federal, state, and local partners supporting the relief effort. The food is loaded into the ERVs for distribution to people in their community. The ERVs are equipped with warming racks to keep the food warm and fresh throughout the day.

“We just try to serve the most food as we can every day,” Ray said. “The people in the communities we serve are just so grateful when they see us. We are really their own source of food until they’re able to get back on their feet.”

Ray and Janie joined the Red Cross five years ago as volunteers after retirement. They’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, knowing their work and the work of their fellow volunteers are making a difference.  

Red Cross volunteers are ready to distribute much-needed food to those affected by Hurricane Ian and other disasters.

“I do what I do for the Red Cross because I think it’s important to be involved in the community, whether it’s at the local, regional or national level,” Janie said. “I have the opportunity to interact with people in all sorts of different situations, sometimes very serious and sometimes at a more preparation level. But the chance to interact with community is absolutely the best part.”

Ray said the experience of deploying to disasters has been personally rewarding. He said they deliver hundreds of meals daily to people struggling in the hardest hit areas.

“I love what I do and love what the Red Cross does,” Ray said. “It’s like no other program I’ve been associated with.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit www.redcross.org.

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