Sioux City man helps with Hurricane Sandy cleanup
By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter
Todd Barry never imagined his first time sightseeing in New York would be through the window of a large U-Haul-like truck filled with supplies. Nevertheless, Barry spent two weeks driving through the Hurricane Sandy ravaged streets passing out supplies to people in need.
“When we would take the box truck out, we had so much trouble getting down the streets because there was so much trash and debris that hadn’t been removed yet,” remembers Barry, Red Cross volunteer and parishioner at Nativity Church in Sioux City.
How it began
Barry and his wife Connie both retired a little over a year ago knowing they would like to spend their newly found free time volunteering. After evaluating where they wanted to volunteer, they finally decided to support the Red Cross.
Having started the process to become Red Cross volunteers in August, the Barrys hadn’t done any work with them before Hurricane Sandy hit. On Nov. 2, the Barrys were about to drive to Kansas City to take care of their granddaughters when Connie decided to check their email.
Seeing that there was a need for several volunteers right away, Barry did not hesitate to sign up.
“We both felt strongly that this was a terrible tragedy for the people on the East Coast. So, when that opportunity came up, it was a quick decision and an easy decision,” said Barry. “In a matter of 12 hours, our paths split. She was headed to Kansas City, and I was headed to New York City.”
Barry flew out to LaGuardia airport in New York on Nov. 3, rented a car and drove to White Plains, NY for orientation. Assigned to be a bulk distributor, Barry and another volunteer were given a box truck to load with supplies. Their job was to drive to different parts of the city to distribute the much-needed items.
He noted that they went to some of the hardest hit areas of New York, including, Rockaway, Staten Island and Breezy Point.
“We took everything from heater meals -a hot military meal- blankets, clean-up kits, water and gloves. Originally, we went out and took supplies to distribution centers, community centers, churches and shelters. As time went on, we were sent to harder hit areas,” said Barry. “We would pull up into the streets and open the back of our truck and distribute from there.”
Barry explained that, even at the end of his two weeks volunteering for the Red Cross, he would go into areas that still didn’t have electricity and running water.
He was able to visit with several people who weathered the storm and see how it affected everyone in different ways.
Barry saw, first hand, the damage and destruction that can take place with just one storm.
He shared the story of an elderly woman he met who had knee surgery the day before the storm and couldn’t evacuate. She and her husband sought shelter on the second floor of their house because the first floor filled to the ceiling with water.
“They didn’t think they were going to survive,” said Barry.
After the water receded, the house was left with three feet of sand.
“There was a lot of devastation. Nothing could escape the storm,” he said. “It was too big of a surge.”
During his time volunteering, he was able to talk with several New Yorkers.
“They were extremely appreciative of all the people traveling so far to help them,” said Barry. “I would tell them about all of my family and friends back home who were praying for them and almost everyone’s eyes would fill up in tears.”
Through his work he witnessed how the hurricane brought the best out of people as they came together to support a common cause. He explained that there was a lot of work that needed to be done and he would usually work from seven in the morning until nine at night.
Barry, whose Catholic faith is very important to him, explained that working such long hours didn’t discourage him. He simply explained that Jesus himself came to earth not to be served, but to serve.
He described how nice it was to help others, work and create bonds and friendships with people who have service at their heart.
“I’m glad I volunteered. It was exciting, it was frustrating, it was challenging, it was a great and bad experience all at the same time,” said Barry.
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