By Ken Rosenauer, American Red Cross

It’s the Red Cross version of Meals on Wheels.

That’s how Red Cross volunteer Justin Nolan has set up the mobile meal delivery for the Dickinson, Texas, neighborhood where he has been delivering meals for the past two weeks.

Back in Savannah, Georgia, he makes a living as an Uber driver, but he has put that on hold as he volunteers to the Harvey disaster.

Shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nolan guides his Red Cross food truck down the street lined with piles of debris on each side. At what have become regular stops, he beeps his horn and hops out to connect meals with residents.

More than meals, though, Nolan has connected with the people on this route that he covers twice a day, lunch then dinner. At the first stop, he asks the middle-aged resident how her mother is doing.

“She’s fine. She’s just busy right now,” she said, explaining why her mother hasn’t come out to see Nolan. Two meals in a Kroger bag, gelatin and two bottles of water in hand, she returns to her home – meals covered being one less thing to worry about in a day filled with more worries than anyone deserves.

A resident in a Dickinson, Texas, neighborhood grabs dinner from a Red Cross food truck driven by volunteer Justin Nolan of Savannah, Georgia. (Red Cross photo by Ken Rosenauer)

This scene is repeated as the food truck creeps down the street. The faces and houses change, but the need is the same. One meal here, three meals there.

This evening it’s hot pork roast, mashed potatoes and fresh-cooked green beans, dished into clamshell containers by volunteer Dave Doehnert, a Presbyterian pastor from Louisville, Kentucky.

Nolan tells the middle-aged man at one house that tonight’s meal is real comfort food.

“You’ll want to take a nap when you’re done eating, he says.

Justin Nolan (left) opens a bag for a couple of meals being dished up by Dave Doehnert for a resident in a Dickinson, Texas, neighborhood hard hit by flooding from a neaby bayou. (Red Cross photo by Ken Rosenauer)

A woman with flecks of popcorn ceiling in her hair and on her cheek takes meals for her and her husband. It has been a long day working inside their flood-ravaged home where her husband decided that since they’re redoing so much already that they’ll just go ahead and remove the popcorn-textured ceiling in the house.

“After we get our dinner,” she says, “we call it a day.”

It’s clear from the responses of every resident that these hot meals that they get each day are a real boost, both physically and emotionally. It means that the homeowner doesn’t have to try to cook and prepare meals on top of everything else. It means that someone doesn’t have to get cleaned up to go out and grab carryout to bring back.

A young woman who lives in a flooded Dickinson, Texas, neighborhood asks only for a couple of bottles of cold water from Red Cross volunteer Dave Doehnert. He is a Presbyterian pastor from Louisville, Kentucky. (Red Cross Photo by Ken Rosenauer)

A man came out of a house next to the bayou that caused all the damage when it overran its banks. He took a meal for his mother and said that her house is situated 21 feet above normal water level. The flood, though, rose 22 feet.

“We don’t have it as bad as a lot of folks,” he said.

To a person, those served by Justin Nolan’s food truck are thankful for the meals.

At a few homes, no one answers the beep of the horn or the knock at their door. Nolan is clearly disappointed not to connect with those homeowners.

“It’s amazing with this DR (disaster response) has done for me,” he says. And he’s saddened that the next day will be his last to deliver meals to his folks in Dickinson. On Saturday, he’ll be driving a food truck to Orlando, where he’ll spend more time volunteering to aid Hurricane Irma disaster victims.

No doubt setting up another Meals on Wheels route in neighborhoods there.

A Texas flag adorns the left rear of the Red Cross food truck driven by volunteer Justin Nolan of Savannah, Georgia. He is delivering meals in Dickinson, Texas, and says lots of drivers honk their horns for the state flag. (Red Cross photo by Ken Rosenauer)
A stuffed beaver has become mascot for a food truck driven by Red Cross volunteer Justin Nolan. He works at the Texas City, Texas, Red Cross kitchen and delivers meals to Dickinson, Texas. (Red Cross photo by Ken Rosenauer).