GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Thursday, the American Red Cross deployed the last of the emergency response vehicles in Mississippi to Florida. While the natural disasters have been a strain on resources and volunteers, the will to help is still strong.
This is Wendy Samples' third deployment with the American Red Cross this season. Since coming back from Texas, she's had about a week to rest. Now, she's headed to Florida.
"It's long hours, obviously with no pay. But, it's very rewarding to see the people's faces. They light up when they see the ERV come around and we're able to help them out," said Samples.
She's been a volunteer for three years. While this has been the toughest so far, she gets much more than she gives.
"I have to say it's just the thankfulness that comes from the clients that we see, from the people we see," Samples said. "You know, great big smiles, and they'll tell stories. They need people, someone to talk to after all they've been through."
She's partnering with volunteer Sunny Munro and taking the last emergency response vehicle in the Mississippi fleet. There are 11 emergency response vehicles in the state that are being deployed in Florida and in Texas. They will carry either bulk distribution items for cleaning or food.
"You get to meet people, Red Cross people," Munro said. "You get to be with the clients, people out there. Just briefly give them food, but they seem to appreciate a good, hot meal."
It's been a whirlwind deployment for Munro as well.
"Come back, wash your clothes, pay your bills, rest a little bit, and they called me up last night and said, 'Let's go.' So, we get to go," said Munro.
Deployment is what Gloria Harland is used to, but knee surgery a month ago redirected her volunteer effort.
"It was like the worst possible time, because right away all these things started happening," Harland said. "I felt very back not to be able to go out and help."
But, she and other office volunteers are also busy trying to help with evacuees needing assistance to return home.
"It has been most stressful on the crew that stays here in the office," Harland said. "I know I've been trying to work many extra days every week."
The Mississippi region has deployed 78 volunteers to help victims in Texas and Florida. Deployments last two weeks, with at least a week in between assignments.