Monday, December 13, 2010

Farewell to American Red Cross DRO’s

As of November, 2010 I have retired from serving as a volunteer on national American Red Cross (ARC) jobs. I’ll no longer be going on those two- to three-week disaster responses several times a year. But I’ll have memories to last a lifetime

Since 1995 I have responded to 41 Disaster Response Operations (DRO) in nineteen states and two American territories (St. Croix and Puerto Rico). Most of the jobs involved helping disaster victims’ initial recovery from floods, hurricanes, earthquake, tornadoes, tropical storms, fires, and the 9/11 acts of terrorism in both Washington, D.C. and New York. A few of the jobs involved working with staffing–helping out in our Nevada regional office with the huge job of staffing these big operations.

When a large disaster occurs, the local American Red Cross chapter responds. It is quickly determined whether they will need help managing the event. Many times, the local volunteers themselves are affected by the disaster and have their hands full working through their own disaster-related problems. In that case, the neighboring chapters respond, then, if needed, nearby states, and from there help comes from volunteers from all over the country, making it a “national” DRO.

Sixteen years ago, my first ARC job was in New Orleans, LA in response to a hurricane that left massive flooding in its wake. At first I worked at a Service Center, interviewing clients to determine their needs. Later, I called on individual clients in the field, in what we call Home Visits, often tramping through mud to get to their homes. Most assistance was in the form of vouchers for food, clothing, and cleaning supplies to help clients get their lives back to normal. In some cases, we helped with housing issues. I served with Client Services for several years, gradually rising in experience and responsibilities.

Later, my first job as Service Center Manager was in 2001 in Houston, TX where I managed about 150 people who responded to Tropical Storm Allison, which caused horrendous flood damage.

My administrative duties working at the headquarters of a Disaster Response Operation began with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. For years I’d never wanted to work at headquarters–I wanted to be where the action was. But much to my surprise, I loved working at headquarters. For one thing, it was such a pleasure working with people who were true professionals in their field–whether it be the logistics of getting huge trucks with supplies to where they needed to go, or with mass care, the people responsible for feeding and lodging hundreds, perhaps thousands of disaster victims.

At DRO headquarters, I continued to work with Client Services, but now my job consisted of working with managers of Client Casework, Mental Health, Health Services and Safe & Well, those folks who help reunite families scattered after a disaster.

Vivid memories include people expressing their tearful gratitude that someone cared enough about their problems to travel across the country to help. My time in New York for 9/11 is indelibly etched in my mind–the devastation itself, the brave firemen, police and other service organizations who gave so much. And Hurricane Katrina–I’ve seen a lot of mass destruction, but nothing to compare with Katrina’s unending miles of destroyed homes, businesses and dreams. The hardships endured are hard to fathom and heartbreaking to witness. In 2007 I saw the entire town of Greenville, Kansas after it had been ripped away by a tornado. The list goes on and on–I’m so thankful I could be a part of the recovery process and that I could make a difference.

My husband Bruce and I continue to be active with the local Red Cross. It’s a wonderful organization with whom we are proud to serve. I have an American Red Cross tee-shirt with a message I love: Help Can’t Wait. I’m grateful to be a part of the spirit and dedication of this fine humanitarian organization


Gloria Huang said...

Hi Mary,

This is Gloria from the social media team at Red Cross headquarters in DC. What a wonderful post! Thanks for all the amazing work you've done and best wishes for the future. :)

Julie said...

Mary, what experiences you have had! And thank you for stepping in where help was so much needed. I admire you, your courage, and your heartfelt contributions.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Mary, you lived a lifetime of experiences in those years of service that many of us will never know. The tally of the help you gave is beyond my imagination.

Job well done!!


Jane Kirkpatrick said...

You have always exuded calm and professionalism and now I can see how you arrived there! What a gift you've been to the Red Cross and to all of us who have contributed to that organization through the years. It's great to know our money was well spent. You'll be writing more about this, yes? I hope so.

Carol said...

Hii Mary,

Wat a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing such a lot of your work experiences with us,I think you always did hard work and people will appreciate your work always...