While you enjoy your warm house and good food this Thanksgiving, don't forget thousands of families on the East Coast are still without power, nearly one month after Hurricane Sandy hit. About 10 St. Joseph County Red Cross volunteers chose to spend their holiday away from their own families to help those in need.
Kimberly Wogatzke of Niles is one of those volunteers.
“We’re very proud of her,” said Wogatzke’s daughter, Chassidy Hibbard.
It’s the first Thanksgiving Hibbard and her four children have ever spent away from Wogatzke.
“She said if they call me, I’m gonna be leaving,” Hibbard recanted.
Inspired by the devastation she saw on television after the hurricane hit, Wogatzke enrolled in a boot camp class at the St. Joseph County Red Cross office and got that call a week later.
As a “bulk distribution” volunteer, she and other volunteers delivered about 3,000 Thanksgiving coolers to hurricane victims Wednesday and Thursday.
“I’ve cried every day. I cried this morning,” Wogatzke told WSBT in a phone interview Thursday. “I go and debrief in my room. People are just needing. They're coming running when they see the Red Cross trucks. They're running out of their houses just begging us for stuff.”
More pictures sent by Red Cross volunteers show the damage is still unbelievable.
Wogatzke said she saw the worst of the destruction Thanksgiving Day in Rockaway Beach, NY, along with a true testament that people in the hardest hit areas are still desperate for food and supplies.
“We were distributing things and we almost had a riot. So what we do in that case is we get police or National Guard to help us because there's police on every corner in this area,” she explained.
Being away from her family during a holiday hasn't been easy.
“I miss them, I miss them so bad,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. “But I’m having Thanksgiving with the most wonderful people here. All the Red Cross workers I'm with, we're all just holding each other up.”
It’s also been a lesson to her four grandchildren in Niles – about giving back and being thankful for what they have.
Wogatzke said she was given the option to volunteer for either 14 or 21 days – she chose to stay the longer term because she said the need is so great.