Tim Miller hasn't forgotten the people left awash by Superstorm Sandy. But it wasn't so long ago that he was among them, helping to feed thousands.
The other day, it heartened Miller, CEO of the regional American Red Cross chapter, to see that a bunch of Santa Rosa kids still care about the storm victims, too.
Sixth-graders in teacher Arlene Moore's class at Proctor Terrace Elementary had Miller and Red Cross volunteer Greg Young into their room to present them a gift and ask how people in the Northeast disaster zone are faring now. Both were among the 56 Red Cross responders who went East from the region that spans from Sonoma to Del Norte
The kids gave Miller and Young 50 pounds of coins they had collected since Nov. 12, raised in a bake sale or earned by doing chores. The staff at Redwood Credit Union converted the coins into a check for $693.44, made out to the Red Cross.
"These kids were so inquisitive and so concerned," Miller said. The students asked him and Young if the people slammed by Sandy are back in their homes, back to school and if they have electricity, clothing and food.
The Proctor Terrace kids also were eager to know how the pets in the worst-hit areas of New York and New Jersey are doing.
Miller, who's 48 and the father of two, was able to tell the students about the vast destruction from the Oct. 29 storm surge, the astounding humanitarian response and the immense amount of recovery work yet to be done.
Miller worked for two weeks last month on the southern end of Staten Island, coordinating logistics for an emergency feeding operation in a Home Depot parking lot that prepared and distributed up to 10,000 meals a day.
He has been CEO of the disaster relief agency's Santa Rosa-based region since 2004 and volunteered to go to New York.
After years of doing mostly administrative work, fundraising and community outreach, he said, "I felt I needed to recharge my batteries a little bit."
His assignment on Staten Island did the trick.
Miller worked alongside teams of volunteers sent by the Southern Baptist Convention, cooking up lunch and dinner for legions of Staten Island people who were without access to groceries or the means to prepare their own meals.
In great cauldrons fired up inside tents, the Baptist volunteers created enormous quantities of stews, mashed potatoes, hot dogs. "It was mostly comfort foods," Miller said.
The food was placed in insulated containers, then loaded into a fleet of Red Cross vans, technically, emergency response vehicles, driven in from across the country. This region sent two, from Lakeport and Santa Rosa.
Volunteer drivers then headed off to deliver the meals to homes and to areas where storm victims congregated. That happened twice a day, with kitchen crews producing a peak of 5,000 lunches and 5,000 dinners.
Throughout the entire disaster area, stretching along hundreds of miles of the Atlantic Coast, Red Cross volunteers served nearly 9million meals and snacks, and welcomed storm victims into 368 shelters.
Miller said it did his heart good to see people who came by the feeding operation in the parking lot on Staten Island ask what they could do.