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Like a food truck | Red Cross to debut new, state-of-the-art vehicle during Hurricane Ian

The emergency response vehicle can store up to 600 meals to hand out to people in need.

MINNEAPOLIS — Local volunteers from the American Red Cross are already on the ground in Florida as Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday in southwest Florida, and 50 more from Minnesota and the Dakotas are on standby.

Some of them will drive down in a new, state-of-the-art vehicle that can feed hundreds of people every day.

The emergency response vehicle is one of five in this region that will leave for Florida on Thursday at 6 .a.m. Given the potential scope of the disaster, there's no telling when it might be back.

Volunteer Rick Graft teaches other people how to properly use the truck that can serve up to 600 meals at a time, often hot dogs, chicken strips, ham and beans.

"We will get an assignment for the day of going street to street, almost block by block," said Graft. "We'll give them as many meals as they need."

Volunteers can spend up to 12 hours handing out the food that Southern Baptist parishioners prepare — it's a partnership going back more than six decades. 

"I don't do it because I'm a nice person," said Graft. "I do it because we're giving back to the community, we're honoring the Red Cross.

RELATED: Live updates: Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida

"We are so thankful for the generosity of our volunteers who take time out of their world, take time away from their families to help others in need," said Red Cross Regional Communications Manager Su Thesenga. "It's amazing to see the humanitarians that we are."

Graft remembers being deployed to Long Island when Hurricane Sandy hit 10 years ago. The trucks were older then, spending five months in the area with volunteers serving 50,000 meals every day there.

"That's what we do," said Graft.

The new vehicle has already been deployed to disasters in Kentucky and California this year, that for Graft, is a mission that's more than just a hot meal. 

"We are there for companionship and to show the support that the Red Cross is offering and we'll be there as long as we are needed," said Graft.

To help people affected by Hurricane Ian, you can visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word IAN to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

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