Hurricane Ida devastated Terrebonne Parish and the town of Montegut in Louisiana. Broken power poles and downed trees littered the countryside, and damaged homes lined the roads and bayous in the southern part of the state. Roads were damaged or washed away, making it difficult for American Red Cross volunteers to reach those who desperately needed their help.

Mark and Marianne Theophilis of Clifton Park (Saratoga County) drove an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) from Albany to Baton Rouge over three days. On arrival, they set out each day for Montegut, a bayou community more than two hours from Baton Rouge.

September 5, 2021. Montegut, Louisiana. An American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) filled with 400 meals navigates the roads in Montegut, Louisiana. Red Cross volunteers Mark and Marianne Bono Theophilis work to maneuver the roads in Montegut, Louisiana after the wind and rain from Hurricane Ida made many areas impassible. ERV volunteer drivers seek to bring hope to those without access to transportation out of affected neighborhoods. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Each day, they traveled as quickly as they could, but the roads were often washed out or damaged and they were sometimes forced to detour. Once, they got lost when their GPS led them down a road that didn’t exist anymore! But they made their way to Montegut for Mass Feeding operations each day.  According to the couple, they hit the ground running on their daily rounds, and never stopped working until all the food was distributed. On a typical day, about 400 people waited in line for the ERV to arrive at a firehouse. For some residents, the meals from the Red Cross may have been the only hot food available, as power was only slowly being restored to the bayou community.

September 5, 2021. Montegut, Louisiana. Dawn Smith, Montegut resident, reaches for a warm meal prepared by American Red Cross volunteers, Mark Theophilis and Marianne Bono Theophilis. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Mark and Marianne spent two weeks in Louisiana, working side by side with other Red Crossers in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and surrounding areas. They flew home after a two-week stay, leaving the ERV behind to continue serving the mission. They’re now awaiting their next joint deployment with the Red Cross. They’ve been volunteering for about ten years.

If you have the time, you can also make a significant impact as a Red Cross volunteer, helping locally or across the country. Review our most urgently needed volunteer positions at

Story by: Mary Alice Molgard – Disaster Public Affairs Team Lead