EVERETT — It might sound a little corny, but Dee Anderson is remarkably thankful for the chance to help others.
These days, the Everett woman is in hurricane-ravaged Florida, handing out meals from a big white box truck to hundreds of people who might otherwise go hungry.
She did the same thing last year after Hurricane Matthew killed 48 and caused an estimated $10 billion worth of damage from Florida to North Carolina. The year before led her to California where wildfires scorched more than 800,000 acres, including many homes.
At 75, Anderson is grateful she can do meaningful volunteer work for the American Red Cross. She’s thankful to her understanding store manager at an Everett Trader Joe’s who allows her to take time off on short notice to help in a crisis. And she cherishes the idea that she’s able to share her journeys with Colleen Protzman, a fellow Red Cross volunteer and dear friend since they met at South Junior High School in the 1950s.
Together, they take turns behind the steering wheel of a U-Haul-sized Red Cross truck that’s used to bring meals to where they are most needed. On their 3,300-mile journey to Florida, they stair-stepped their way across the countryside, side-stepping the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast flooding brought by Tropical Storm Harvey.
Anderson, who graduated from Everett High School in 1960, said her biggest reward comes from the simplest gestures, the “God bless yous” she hears when she hands out a cup of coffee or a sandwich.
“What could be better than that,” she said from Orlando Thursday, just days after Hurricane Irma hammered the region.
“We get so much more out of it than we could ever hope to give.”
Anderson and Protzman are among 15 American Red Cross volunteers from Snohomish County to travel to either Houston or Florida in recent weeks.
Local contributions to the relief efforts can be found in other forms.
Earlier this week, the Snohomish PUD sent 19 workers and 11 trucks to help restore power to the millions of people who lost electricity after Irma. The crews arrived in Lawrenceville, northeast of Atlanta, on Thursday before getting an orientation and being assigned their bunks. Friday was their first full day on the job. They are scheduled to work 17-hour shifts.
All PUD labor and supply costs are being reimbursed as part of the relief effort, spokesman Neil Neroutsos said. In fall 2012, the PUD sent 11 workers to aid in Superstorm Sandy restoration. They worked primarily on the New Jersey coast.
They were deployed to Sandy for about two weeks. This time, the utility workers are expected to be gone 60 days.
At the same time, a Bothell company is using its aircraft to capture post-storm images in Florida to assess damage and help with the recovery.
Aerial imaging firm EagleView Technologies is using 20 planes and drones as part of Hurricane Irma relief efforts. The company started sending aircraft as soon as it was permitted to fly, President Rishi Daga said in a statement.
EagleView has an image library of Florida homes and businesses dating back to 2002. Those images are helping insurance carriers, first responders, nonprofits and local government agencies analyze the effect of the storm by comparing new images with the old ones.
The flights are expected to take place over the next few weeks, with EagleView making constant updates to its library.
The company maintains a fleet of planes and drones stationed across the U.S. and Canada, outfitted with camera systems that capture images from every available angle.
It uses the images to measure every aspect of a building, including walls, windows, doors and siding — and do so more accurately than measurements done by hand. EagleView Technologies previously helped with Hurricane Sandy.
It has been a busy summer for American Red Cross volunteers from Snohomish County. Ten have been to Texas to help with Harvey, five to the Southeast after Irma. More are expected to join the effort soon.
“I expect to see deployment of newly trained volunteers in the next few weeks,” said Chuck Morrison, director of the local chapter.
Marilyn Nadeau, of Edmonds, has been helping in Houston with what is described as “spiritual care.” That often means quietly listening to clients and co-workers. She has been spending her days at the George R. Brown Convention Center, a refuge for the suddenly homeless, with daily briefings at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Nadeau, who has a health care background, joined the Red Cross after watching Hurricane Katrina on the television screen before volunteering and being deployed to the front lines of the recovery efforts in Louisiana in 2005.
After each mission, she looks forward to reconnecting with local volunteers.
“I certainly love our Everett chapter,” she said. “It is small but very powerful and active.”
Jim Davis contributed to this story.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.