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Minn. Red Cross volunteer in New Jersey discusses relief effort

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For millions of residents on the East Coast, life after Hurricane Sandy may never be the same -- but 20 Minnesota volunteers with the American Red Cross are working to help them recover.

As Hurricane Sandy pounded the New Jersey shoreline -- claiming both homes and lives, a Minnesota volunteer rode out the storm at a Red Cross Operations Center.

"After the storm passed, it was clear that the flooding was underway," PJ Doyle said. "Folks that thought they could safely stay home found out they couldn't, and in some cases needed to be evacuated by airlift or boat."

Doyle is stationed in Berkeley Township, working 16-hour days to help people find shelters and connect with worried loved ones. She says many people are now starting to leave the shelters to stay with family and friends, but the situation is still bleak because the power is still out and roads and bridges remain closed.

The Red Cross has sent 20 Minnesotan volunteers to five states hit hard by the superstorm.

"This certainly is the largest operation we've seen in the last few years, for hurricane or any other response," said Megan Mrozek, of the Northern Minnesota Region Red Cross. "Certainly, the scope of this disaster is quite large."

In fact, another truck just left on Wednesday so that volunteers can hand out warm meals to storm victims.

"Our very first reports we heard were empty shelves at grocery stores, long lines at gas stations, cash machines nearly out of cash," Mrozek said.

Volunteers are planning to stay for up to three weeks as the East Coast cleans up, and Doyle said she couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

"How often have you seen something dramatic on TV or you've heard about something happening -- especially if you've been to an area or have friends that live there -- and you feel so helpless? This is a way of not feeling helpless," she said.

The relief effort is really just beginning, and anyone can help by donating to either the Red Cross or the Salvation Army in one of the ways listed below. 

Donate to Hurricane Sandy relief:

RED CROSS

SALVATION ARMY

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