By Sarah Cody, WTNH
Updated: Apr 23, 2018 10:01 AM EDT
MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) - An East Windsor grandmother recently teamed-up with The Salvation Army to travel to Puerto Rico for continued disaster relief due to Hurricane Maria. News 8 shares her compelling experience.
Two years ago, Kathy Dyer turned to the Salvation Army when she felt the personal need to volunteer.
"I wanted more of that in my life now that my children are grown and have families of their own," explained the East Windsor grandmother. "The first thing I saw was Kitchen Ministry and I thought, 'I can do that.'"
She started cooking for fifty or more people who come to the Manchester location for a hot meal.
Giving back felt so good that Dyer took it a big step further, joining a March trip to Puerto Rico as a member of the Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Service Team.
"I was a little afraid. I wasn’t sure, at my age, if I still had the strength to carry things or do things and I learned I could which was great," she said.
Based outside of San Juan, the team provided food and hygiene items to people still suffering the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria.
"I was surprised that about six months after two storms, people still didn't have power or clean running water or any water," she said.
Dyer was most struck by the areas outside the cities, remote locations with downed power lines.
"If somebody said, 'What are you afraid of?' - it was getting to and from locations because the roads might be washed away," remembered Dyer.
Despite the continued chaos, the 57 year old was deeply moved by the new friends she made.
"In the course of two weeks, I was hugged about a thousand times," she said with a smile. "I was meeting people who didn’t have power for six months so I was expecting they’d be a little bit unhappy or not pleasant but I think they’re the most pleasant people on Earth."
Dyer returned to Connecticut with a fresh perspective and a continued commitment to serve others in far away lands and right here at home.
"I don’t know who is more enriched by it them or me," she said softly. "I think it’s me. It’s been a blessing."