West Michigan volunteers prepare to help during Hurricane Matthew

Storm expected to make landfall in Florida early Friday, then move north

Hurricane Matthew
This GOES East satellite image posted at 5:12 p.m. and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Matthew moving northwest along the east coast of Florida, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As millions evacuate the southeastern coast in response to the threat posed by Hurricane Matthew, others are traveling there with a mission to help.

The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids will send five volunteers to South Carolina and Florida, where Matthew is expected to make landfall early Friday. One of those volunteers is Penny Raap, a mass care coordinator for the local Red Cross. She’ll be overseeing a shelter in South Carolina where evacuees will be provided with bedding, clothing and food.

“At first it’s scary because you don’t know what’s going to go on but then, I don’t know, you’re just so busy the whole entire time. You’re doing stuff and that gives you a good feeling,” Raap told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

She’s no stranger to responding to disasters. Hurricane Matthew marks her eighth deployment.

“I was in the tornado in Oklahoma. You could stand in the center and look all around and all you see was just nothing just destruction every which way,” she described.

Red Cross volunteer Penny Raap prepares for deployment.
Red Cross volunteer Penny Raap prepares for deployment.

Raap has seen a lot during her years with the Red Cross. Aside from giving people things they need, she says sometimes the biggest help she can offer is listening.

“It’s very sad because you want to help, but you’re so limited in your power. But at least knowing you can share a cup of coffee with someone and listen and talk maybe to a complete stranger and sometimes it helps them,” she explained.

More than 280 deaths in Haiti alone are being blamed on Hurricane Matthew. The storm strengthened to a Category 4 on Thursday and forecasters were expecting a storm surge of up to 9 feet and up to 15 inches of rain, the Associated Press reported.

Volunteers from all across the country will face the storm head-on. Those interested in helping the American Red Cross with their destruction response can visit its website or call 1.800.Red.Cross.

The Red Cross also has a safe and well website where people living in affected areas can register to show they’re OK after the storm hits. Once a loved one is registered, you can search for them in the database.