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Out of Fla.'s frying pan and into the fire at home

| Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

When local disaster relief volunteers returned Friday night after 11 days of hurricane cleanup work in Florida, their boss met them at the airport with a bit of bad news.

There was more work to do.

"It's been a grueling couple of weeks, and to have them come back and step into this...," said Bob Myers, director of disaster services for the Salvation Army of Western Pennsylvania.

One volunteer, handyman Steven Gailey, 27, said he didn't have much choice. The roads were blocked to his home on the South Side Slopes on Friday night.

He wound up manning a phone at the organization's Green Tree headquarters until past 3 a.m., coordinating supply efforts for refugees and workers in Etna, Heidelberg and Turtle Creek.

"It's just one of Christ's commandments to us. You see someone who's hungry, you feed them; naked, and you clothe them," Gailey said.

"It's not supposed to be anything extraordinary. It's just what people do for each other when they're in a bad situation," he said.

Gailey normally volunteers an afternoon each week as a supply clerk, but it has been a busy summer.

He first went to Florida in August to help with food and supplies after Hurricane Charley. Two weeks ago, he drove to Port St. Lucie, north of West Palm Beach, with a truck full of supplies and stayed on to help with Hurricane Frances relief efforts.

"I'm extremely grateful. For a volunteer to put in that kind of commitment is beyond reasonable. That's the only way I can describe it," Myers said.

Disaster relief can have unexpected rewards, as Gailey has learned.

He met his wife, Carol, when she was running a Salvation Army kitchen in Shanksville, Somerset County, where a hijacked airplane crashed Sept. 11, 2001.

"She wanted to know if I cooked or sewed, and I said yes, and she offered to take me home," Gailey joked. "We got married seven months later."

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