PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Now that things have calmed down in this area, many groups are sending volunteers to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Among those leaving today were volunteers with the Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army.

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Avoiding a major weather disaster here, Salvation Army volunteers are now packed up and ready to serve thousands of meals out of a truck headed to one of the hardest hit areas in New Jersey.

Monmouth County, N.J. is one of the many areas along the East Coast devastated by Sandy.

“We need some hot dog buns and some bread,” Michael Riemer with the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services told a volunteer.

At the Western Pennsylvania Disaster Services headquarters for the Salvation Army, volunteers loaded up a canteen truck.

Two volunteers from the Pittsburgh area will be the first out-of-state Salvation Army relief team to land in New Jersey.

“We’ve been on standby for about a week and the call finally came in yesterday afternoon,” Riemer said.

“We’re in for the worst,” Salvation Army volunteer Donald Santoriello said. “It’s going to be really bad when we get there.”

“These people, they lost everything,” he said.

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Flooding along the New Jersey shorelines has left hundreds homeless and even destroyed a Salvation Army canteen truck like one that was attempting to help people in Union Beach.

The first meals from Pittsburgh volunteers could be served as early as Wednesday night.

“We are preloaded with food for approximately 1,000 meals to start with,” Riemer said.

“I’ll make a three course meal on this if they want me to,” Santoriello said.

As a retired firefighter, helping others is something volunteer Donald Santoriello has done all his life.

He’s ready for the destruction he’ll see in New Jersey.

And while he’ll be preparing meals for thousands of people, that’s not all he’s prepared to give.

“Whatever the need,” Santoriello said. “I’’ll give ‘em a blanket if they need a blanket. If they need a hug, I’ll give ’em a hug. I’ll help them anyway I can.”

Three additional disaster relief crews from our area are on standby, ready to go on a moment’s notice in case additional help is needed.

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Heather Abraham