Monday, February 2, 2009
The American Red Cross--When Help Can't Wait
I am a proud volunteer for the American Red Cross and have served both locally and nationally. My own State of Washington recently suffered massive floods and I served in two capacities. My husband, Bruce, and I, along with other team members, opened a shelter at a local church for flood victims. Some flood victims came to us wet and cold, needing dry clothes, warm food and a safe place to stay. A shelter also serves as a meeting place for victims to wait until family or friends can pick them up.
While we worked in that shelter, other volunteers were busy bringing food and materials to us and other strategically located shelters, working around the clock to ensure victims and workers’ needs were met.
Later, as the floods ran their course and people were allowed to return to their homes, or worse, if they could not return because of flood damage, the Red Cross stepped up to the next level of assistance. I worked at the Seattle Headquarters assisting the affected chapters in meeting the needs of their communities. As a Client Services Administrator, I facilitate a Service Delivery Plan, describing how we will actually go about meeting client needs, plan a budget, and act as support to volunteers working in Client Casework, Health Services, Mental Health Services, and begin the process of Recovery, Planning & Assistance–a program that works in conjunction with other community resources.
Probably one of the most heart-warming sights a disaster victim can see is an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) lumbering toward them with hot food, hot drinks, water and snacks. The ERVs make stops in pre-announced locations in the damaged area, allowing people to get a meal without having to leave their homes while they’re cleaning up. Also in pre-designated sites, bulk items are available, such as cleaning supplies and items to help assist in recovery.
In addition to local responses, such as house fires, I also respond to national disasters and have worked in 17 states and U.S. territories, some of the states, like Louisiana, several times. I have now responded to 36 national disasters.
The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, is committed to meeting the needs of victims of disaster and to educating people to help prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
With so many disasters happening in a short period of time, the Red Cross is running low of funds. Donations are welcomed and encouraged to support this vital work which helps neighbors in time of need. Please contact your local chapter for contribution information, or visit www.americanredcross.org.