New Kensington Salvation Army volunteers recount Florida relief trip
Volunteers with the Salvation Army of New Kensington spent more than a week in Florida assisting with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Dave Powers, 49, of Arnold, Joel Brown, 51, of Vandergrift and Albert Johnson, 62, of New Kensington left for Florida on Sept. 11 and arrived back in the Alle-Kiski Valley on Thursday night.
The men are part of the center's emergency disaster service unit.
“They wanted to go, and the Salvation Army needed people to go,” Commanding Officer Major Elvie Carter said.
The men drove to Florida in a mobile canteen truck. They served more than 3,000 meals, over 6,000 snacks, and gave out 5,000 cases of water. They also distributed clothes and cleanup kits.
Brown said the unit helped with relief efforts in Homestead, Miami and Key Largo.
He said the experience was “eye opening.”
“I'm glad I got a chance to do it,” Brown said. “You felt a lot of sorrow cause you (saw) little kids with dirty faces, no clothes. We get to go home to a roof over our heads.
“Half (of those) people don't have a home (anymore).”
The unit was able to meet with Lt. Col. Ken Luyk, divisional commander for The Salvation Army of Florida. Luyk grew up in Lower Burrell and has connections to the Salvation Army New Kensington Worship & Service Center.
“It was pretty cool to see ‘Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army Disaster Services' on the side of the canteen,” Luyk said. “I was so appreciative. That just (enhances) our ability to respond in these times of significant impact on people's lives.
Carter said it was nice to be able to help someone who used to live in the Alle-Kiski Valley.
“We have a heart to help people, and that's what drives us — it doesn't matter where,” Carter said. “If someone needs help, and we're able to do it, the Salvation Army will respond with the resources that we have.”
“It certainly feels rewarding to help someone who grew up in the area — we share a common bond — but the greater bond is just with those people who needed help.”
Six emergency disaster service volunteers from the New Kensington center are currently on standby, Carter said. Those volunteers could be sent to Florida, Texas or wherever they're needed, he said.