NORTH PORT, Fla. — Communications specialist Joe Young recently found himself a long way from his home in Terre Haute as he was standing in high rainwater fixing a stranger’s car belt.
Young, a communications specialist and volunteer for the American Red Cross, was recently deployed to Florida to assist those affected by Hurricane Ian. Currently, he is working at a Red Cross shelter that works to help those who were forced to leave their homes and give them food, shelter and medical aid.
“We are helping those who have been evacuated,” he said. “We bring them in and give them a place to sleep, food to eat, a place to shower.”
After flying out of Indiana to Florida to volunteer for the Red Cross, Young and other volunteers wound up in North Port, Florida. While trying to get to a hotel room the organization had set up for them, he came upon a road flooded by rainwater.
On the side of the road and soaking wet, Young saw a group of people standing next to a stalled car.
“Nobody was helping them and we were like ‘we probably need to stop’,” he said. “This is what we are supposed to be doing.”
Young ended up helping to reattach the car’s belt and get the group on the road. He even gave a pair of socks to a woman who had lost her shoes in the wreckage.
After finding that the flooding only got worse further down the road, Young and the group of volunteers turned around to find an alternate route. Then, their own car began stalling.
Like the group they had just helped, Young and company found themselves stranded without a working car. As the water began to rise up to the vehicle’s floorboard, a flatbed truck came along and picked them up.
The car, along with the volunteers, was driven to a nearby gas station where they were told by the owner that fuel wouldn’t be available for almost another day. The group ended up being stranded at the gas station for 7 hours, but still found ways to help people.
“A guy came up to me, asking me questions,” Young said. “His parents were elderly and he couldn’t get to their house and there was flooding and they were supposed to be evacuating and the water was rising. You could just see the tears in his eyes. And he’s talking about trying to get to them but he couldn’t. This guy is wet, no shoes, feet are muddy. Tears are in his eyes and I almost started crying. So we got on the phone and got ahold of his parents.”
Eventually, an Uber driver came by the gas station and took the group to a Red Cross-affiliated hotel. Young said he ended up forming a connection with the driver during their drive.
“It’s a mixture of emotions,” he said. “And you hear some good stories too.”
The journey didn’t stop at the hotel. Upon arrival, a front desk clerk said that the Red Cross had used up its allotment of rooms, and the group was turned away. After another wait, the organization was able to provide everyone in Young’s group with transportation and shelter.
“I ended up being stranded for a total of 12 hours,” Young said. “But when you look at what the people around you are dealing with, think about the people you’re down here helping, it puts your situation into perspective.”