Thursday, July 25, 2013

(Not) Just Another Volunteer

Red Cross Volunteers, Jerry Chavez and Ray Quintana
On July 5, 2013 I, along with three others from the Central Valley were called to deploy to Arizona. Bakersfield, Fresno and Tulare County Red Cross chapters working together facilitated the deployment of all four of us to the Arizona Fires. The fire had already claimed the lives of 19 Granit Mountain Hot Shots on Sunday June 30, 2013. ERV’s 3104 from Bakersfield and 3071 from Fresno were summoned by National Red Cross to Prescott, Arizona to support the Yarnell fires that had devastated the community by fires and a horrific tragedy of the 19 fire fighters who lost their lives in defense of that community.

The 19 firemen’s deaths are the single biggest on duty fatalities in U.S. fire fighting history surpassed only by the 9-11 World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York.  It was an honor to respond with the American Red Cross to aid those communities in need, and to have been part of the memorial service for the 19 Hot Shots who perished. Firemen from across the country attended the memorial service and the proceeding funeral services for their fallen brothers. The Red Cross was asked to support and attend all these heart felt events to provide cold water to the masses, for emotional or psychological counseling, or just to give a hug to those mourning.

At the funeral of one of the fallen firemen I thanked a Fire Captain for his service. He in turn thanked me and the American Red Cross for our service and shared this with me, “With everything that’s going on, the one thing we could depend on is the Red Cross. Anytime we have asked you guys to do something it got done with no worries. Thank You!” This was a humbling experience that reminds us why we volunteer, to help others in their time of need.

Just another volunteer 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Arizona Memorial for Hot Shots

Local Red Cross volunteers, Chris Theile and Gary Bishop
The call came in on Wednesday, July 3rd to have Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) #3081 go to Prescott Arizona as part of the memorial service for the 19 Hot Shot fire fighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell fire. We were told we needed to be in Prescott by 12:00 noon on Sunday so Gary Bishop and myself left the office in Fresno on Friday, spent the night in Needles, and arrived on Saturday to help in whatever way we could.

There were 20 Red Cross ERV's from nearby states called to participate in this memorial. The Bakersfield ERV was also sent down with Ray Quintana and Jerry Chaves; whom I have had the pleasure to work with many times. Our job was to support the community and fire fighters from around the country who attended the services. We all agreed that it was a real honor to be called out for this very emotional ceremony to honor the Hot Shots. 

On Monday we had the ERV's washed, filled with fuel and loaded with supplies we would need for the event. We left headquarters in Prescott, drove to a staging area and loaded the ERV's with water and ice. Next, we drove the ERV's to the parking lot of the arena to set up the trucks and park next to the tents that would be used for the memorial service. We were told that the trucks would stay there over night for security reasons due to Vice President Biden's arrival. 
Thousands lined the streets for the parade.

During this time, there was a funeral procession through the streets of downtown. It seemed like the whole city of Prescott had turned out to pay their respects. At Red Cross headquarters some current and retired firefighters came to thank the American Red Cross for coming to help out. There were many emotional "thank you's" with lots of tears, not only from fire fighters, but Red Cross volunteers as well.

Tuesday was a very long day. We started at 6:00AM to catch shuttle buses to the event and to be ready for the people that were going to be outside watching the proceedings inside on big screens. We were stationed at the far end of the parking lot so people coming to the lot were given water as they found a place to watch the memorial.

Thousands stand outside watching the memorial.
As we were going out to our trucks the procession was coming down the streets and everybody along the way had their own way of showing their respect - either hats removed or standing at attention. In fact, all of the firefighters who could not be in the building were at attention or parade rest throughout the entire memorial. Officials estimated there were 6,000 people inside and 10,000 people outside in very hot weather. We were there to pay our respects, but also make sure that everyone stayed hydrated and did not suffer from heat-stroke.

The memorial started at 11:00 and lasted 2
1/2 hours. At each ERV location we had a tent and about 6-10 walk in volunteers all handing out water and some ice packs. We had a couple nurses carrying water through the crowd. A couple of times we would take ice packs out to women with very small children to help cool them down. By the end of the memorial, we were told that we had 10 cases of heat exhaustion of which 3 had to be evacuated out, and had it not been for our presence, the count would have been 10 times that many. Near our location people had so much water that they would turn us down, but we did a good job of keeping people hydrated in the heat and throngs of people.

On Wednesday some ERV's where assigned to attend the funerals to support the families with water, comfort or any other assistance they might need. Funerals went every day through Saturday. 

Fences lined with cards, flags, photos and letters.
On Thursday Gary and I went over to the fire station the Hot Shots were from. There was a cyclone fence around the outside that I could only say must have been a mini scene from New York after 9/11. There were flowers, cards and stuffed animals all along the fence.  T-shirts were strung up from all the fellow fire stations and fighters that came to pay their respect. 

I have seen many things in my 8 years with American Red Cross, but this was one trip I'll never forget. The outpouring of support and understanding from the
community in and around Prescott was something I may never see again but it was a very uplifting experience for me. As I said before, it was my honor and pleasure to be there.

Written by American Red Cross, volunteer:
Chris Theile - Disaster Services Leadership, Mass Care & ERV Driver 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It Takes A Community

As I write my first “blog piece” I think back to my first response to a fire scene in New Orleans, LA in 1985.  I was anxious.  I wanted to be sure that I did everything I could for the family.  Through the years I’ve seen many families who are overwhelmed watching their homes burn down.  They turn to the American Red Cross to help them began their recovery.  Most families have not considered what they would do if a fire occurred.  Many times Red Cross volunteers arrive on the scene and the family has just gotten out of the house with just the clothes on their backs.  The Red Cross folks brings to them the means to replace some clothing and food.  We can provide information about first steps to recovery . . . Do you have family or friends you can stay with?  No . . . we can help with several days in a hotel.  We provide a shoulder to rest on as the fire fighters finish putting the fire out.  Red Cross folks can provide comfort items to help the family.  Red Cross can help with information about other services they may access due to the fire.  

Recovering from a disaster takes a community.  We need donors to provide the funding to train our workers and provide the items to those just suffering that fire.  We need volunteers to be trained and called on to respond to those home fires.  We need community partners who will partner with the Red Cross to help meet the needs of the family after the fire.  We need you because people need help every 16 hours. Thank you for you generosity!

Bob Wortman

Regional Disaster Director

Merced Disaster Relief

Fire still smoldering hours after it was put out.
As a DAT member I get the honor of helping affected families.  It is my honor to help these amazing families in need.  They allow us to help provide emergency shelter, food and clothing for them in a time of need.  

We (DAT) deal with many emotions during this time.  I recall a home fire that happened, the family lost everything.  It was a total loss.  The family only had two walls left standing from the fire to the home.  They had many animals.  You can tell that these animals were like their children.  The family was so upset that some of the animals died and others where injured.  The local fire department and Emergency Medical Team was able to help provide emergency Oxygen to some of the animals.  The American Red Cross DAT team was able to provide emergency shelter, food, and clothing.   In addition our DAT team was able to contact a community partner to assist the family in the getting the animals the attention that they needed even though that it was after business hours. 

It is great to know that our community we will come together to assist families in a time of need.

It is such a rewarding feeling when you can reach out and help families in need and see that you made a positive difference in their lives.  The family came in a week later just to tell us thank you for getting them through the loss/recovery and they were on the road to rebuilding.  I would not be able to fulfill the American Red Cross mission without the community and the community partner’s support.

Written by Sherry Pitchford, Merced Office Manager and DAT Member

Become a DAT Member

Being the Volunteer Coordinator for the Kern Chapter of the American Red Cross has been an experience that I am sure no other person in this position at any other organization can understand, though I hope they get the opportunity.  It can be difficult when someone calls and simply states, “I would like to volunteer.”  With volunteers constituting about 95 percent of the entire Red Cross workforce and offering so many amazing services, it is important we assign volunteers to a job/duty that matches the skills they possess with something they will truly enjoy being a part of.
Although every volunteer is equally as important, Disaster Services volunteers and Disaster Action Team (DAT) members are without a doubt some of the most dedicated.  Disaster response tends to be what the Red Cross is most recognized for, having responded to major disasters around the country and world.  It is also important that we share the vast response we do locally.  Most commonly we receive calls from clients whose homes have tragically been devastated by a fire. On average, our team responds to disasters from Merced to Bakersfield and Yosemite to the Grape Vine every 16 hours. We cover 7 counties in the Central Valley - Merced, Madera, Mariposa, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern and a population of 2.8 million people. The funds used to supply food, shelter and clothing for each of these incidents comes from the generosity of donors.
Being a disaster volunteer requires one being available at a moment’s notice.  This also means that calls can come in at 3am.  We are always able to assemble a team of at least 3 volunteers for every call.  It definitely takes the strongest, most devoted and enthusiastic volunteers to aid in this mission service and we, as well as the ones they help are thankful for them every single day.   
Help turn heartbreak into hope by becoming a volunteer with your local chapter today! 

-Amy Mayer

If you can't serve directly, serve those who do serve

During the past year I have served the Red Cross as an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver, as a ham radio operator providing communications, and, mainly, as a team member of the Disaster Action Team (DAT).

DAT Team Members respond immediately to house or apartment fire calls when people are displaced by fire. I consider it truly an honor to be able to serve the local American Red Cross chapter by directly serving the people that have been affected by fire. Some memorable stories stand out about the many fire calls I have been on.


The large family that was affected by this fire had just been out grocery shopping when they received a call that their house was on fire. They came home to a totally destroyed house - only the walls, chimney and part of the roof remained. Fortunately no one was home at the time so there were no injuries. However, some pets perished in the fire. The cause of the fire was a circuit breaker in the garage. The family had no where to go. The American Red Cross provided the family with a motel for a few days and funds for food and clothing. Red Cross responders are also trained to give guidance in the recovery process.


In Red Cross vest, Gary Crown helps set up
antenna for HAM Radio operations during a shelter drill
Some of the scariest call-outs I have been on involved fires that started at night in children's bedrooms inside electrical outlets, traveled up the wall, and into the attic. During a typical year, home electrical problems account for 26,100 fires and $1 billion in property losses. To prevent this, be sure to routinely check your electrical appliances and frayed wiring. Fortunately, no one in any of these incidents I was called out to were hurt. Being able to be there, representing the American Red Cross, to assist these families by providing food, shelter and clothing is the greatest gift of all. 


Another very common fire is the kitchen fire, sometimes called the "grease fire".
Many times the cook is heating cooking oil to fry something on the stove and gets called away. The baby is crying. The phone is ringing. Someone is at the door. In that short amount of time the oil ignites, catches the wall on fire, burns through the ceiling into the attic. Sometimes the fire department can catch the fire before it goes farther. Sometimes it burns so fast the entire house is destroyed. 

No matter what the emergency or disaster, the American Red Cross is there helping the people affected.

It is an honor to serve the American Red Cross.
My philosphy is: "If you can't serve drectly, serve those who do serve."

Please donate generously to your local American Red Cross chapter.

Gary Crown

Volunteer, Disaster Services

What They Lost Was Nothing Compared to What They Still Have

As a Red Cross Disaster Action Team member and volunteer, it is hard not to give it your all.  I work full time and even then I am still thinking about the Red Cross and what more I can do to service its mission.  

Amy Mayer, Volunteer Coordinator (Left) and  Leanna Carskaddon (Right)
at the Kern County Volunteer Appreciation Fiesta 
One of my most memorable fire calls was an apartment fire.  It was late and we knew we would have multiple families to assist.  Normally the people are understandably shaken and eager to get to the hotel that we are there to arrange for them.  However, two of the tenants affected at this apartment complex had the most amazing attitude and had us laughing the entire time.  They truly understood that what they may have lost was nothing compared to what they still have. 

There were four of us responders on that call and we all left with a smile on our face and a new appreciation for what we had.  I also recently experienced my first national deployment to Moore, OK.  I was dealing first-hand with clients and it was truly an eye-opening journey.  I would like to thank the Red Cross and the other many volunteers for giving me this opportunity to make a difference in my community and others.

-Leanna Carskaddon   
American Red Cross Volunteer  

A day in the life of a Disaster Action Team Member

A day in the life of a Disaster Action Team Member
By Patty Dunn, Disaster Action Team Coordinator
Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross

February 28, 2012 at 2:00 am was the first time I had responded to a fire to help a family in need as a new Red Cross volunteer.  Little did I know that within a few short weeks I would become the Disaster Action Team Coordinator for the Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.  Since that first fire I have personally responded to nearly 100 fires right here in the Central Valley.
One of those fires occurred in the early morning hours of April 5, 2012.  Around 2am I received a call about a house fire near Hoover High School.  It was very cold that morning, I believe in the low 30’s, and there was a little bit of a wind blowing.  When I arrived on scene, bundled up in my jacket and gloves,  I came upon a street crowded with 8 fire trucks and engines, multiple members of the media, and neighbors. 

The house was completely destroyed, and the Hansen family, consisting of 4 adults and two children visiting their grandparents for spring break  were standing outside in their pajamas.  Young Amber, one of our Red Cross youth heroes, was the first one to wake up. She alerted the family, saving her grandparents, her two uncles, and her brother. Fortunately, the family got out of the burning home without any major injuries .
The family did not have time to grab a coat or shoes.  Neighbors offered sweatshirts and shoes to protect them from the cold.  Red Cross workers provided wool blankets to help keep the family members warm.
Red Cross offered the family a few nights in a hotel and provided them with some money for food and a few items of clothing.  Afterwards, Red Cross followed up with the family to ensure that they were able to make contact with their insurance company and put the family in touch with Red Cross nurses to provide them assistance with medical needs.

Geri Hansen, Patty Dun, and Amber Stewart
This was only the beginning of a very busy day of my Red Cross volunteer service. Three hours later I headed home to shower so I could go to my regular day job.  On my way to work I received another call for an apartment fire near Olive and Chestnut Avenues that displaced a family of three.  I was able to take one of our new Red Cross trainees with me to show her what we do to help the families.  Finally, around 11am we finished the call and I was able to return to work.
Around 6:00 pm I received a third call for a house fire near Slater Elementary School.  This fire displaced a family of four.  Again we were able to assist the family with shelter for a few nights and provide them money for food and other necessities.
During a 16 hour time period I was able to assist a total of 13 people.  I do not report these numbers to boast but to show how frequently emergencies can occur and how necessary Red Cross assistance can be in the lives of the members of our community.
Every 16 hours on average, Red Cross workers in the Central Valley respond to a disaster that has displaced a family.  Every contribution you make supports the Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, enabling us to help families in need.
I am a member of several volunteer organizations in the community, but my volunteer service with the Central Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross provides me with the opportunity to do the most good for the most people in emergency circumstances.

Won’t you please consider making a contribution of $16 or more to the local American Red Cross to assist families in need?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Home Fires Destroy Memories Every 80 Seconds

The American Red Cross responds to fires more than any other disaster. More than hurricanes. Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Fires occur in the United States every 80 seconds.

In the Central Valleydisaster volunteers are called to home fires on average every 16 hours. They arrive on scene oftentimes while firefighters are still there, and they provide families with food, shelter, infant formula, teddy bears for the kids, access to medication… whatever the family needs to survive.

This relief is almost entirely delivered by volunteers and funded by donorsWhen we arrive, more often than not, we encounter families who are grateful. Though they may have lost everything, they say “thank goodness” that their loved ones survived. “Everything else can be replaced,” they say. When a family survives a fire without deaths or injuries, they usually first think of their pictures – the memories that can’t be replaced. One of my most striking memories as a disaster volunteer was helping this family wipe away smoke damage from baby photos that we were relieved to find intact.

To be a part of a life changing mission, join the Red Cross by volunteering or donating today!

Why I Am a Disaster Action Team Member

I am a Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) Volunteer and my mission is simply that of the American Red Cross: "The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors." 
Mark Bryson, Red Cross Volunteer

Why do I do it? Picture yourself standing at the curb of a home completely devastated by fire. It's 2:00 am in a small Central California Valley town most people have never heard of. Before you stands a young mother with four small children. As she nurses the youngest one, she explains, (in Spanish through a neighbor who interprets), that her husband is working in the fields and she has been unable to reach him. They've lost everything, but thankfully she and the children were visiting a neighbor when the fire started. She has no idea where to go or what to do next. You help her. You give her money for food, clothing, and supplies. You put her and her family in a motel room for three nights, You call her husband's employer to explain what has happened and get a message through. You tell her who to call in the morning for more help. You give her some diapers and stuffed toys for the children. As this all takes place the look of fear in her eyes is slowly replaced by one of sincere gratitude. Once you have done this you will see the world and yourself differently. I have arrived on scene and actually heard people shout, "the Red Cross is here, the Red Cross is here." In the worst part of town I've watched the most hardened gang member step off the sidewalk to clear the way and give me a nod of respect as I walk by.Once you have done this, you will not stop.

How do I do it? I am 57 years old and I work at a demanding job full time. I came to Red Cross with no medical training or experience, but I had an open mind. Heck, when I volunteered I thought I would be stuffing envelopes. When they told me I would be trained in disaster response, I thought, "You've got the wrong guy. I don't know anything about disaster response!" Since then I have received many hours of excellent training, in the classroom, online and from mentors and fellow volunteers. All of it was free. When I had a question, someone nearby usually had an answer. This is not something you do alone. There are always people around you, the best kind of people. A year later, I am actually qualified to respond to smaller disaster, (house and apartment fires for instance), on my own, if necessary. I don't do it all the time. I am on call from 6:00 am Saturday to 6:00 am on Sunday. I get a call once or twice a month. If I am going out of town, I ask to be taken off the schedule. A few years from now, I hope to have time to be deployed around the country and overseas. I'll have achieved my goal. I finally won't have to be the guy watching TV and wishing that I could, "do something to help those people."

Want to change the world, starting with you? Call your local chapter of the Red Cross and tell them you'd like to volunteer to serve on a Disaster Action Team. You won't regret it.

Written by Red Cross volunteer, Mark Bryson

DAT Fire Call

Being on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Central Valley is one of those opportunities that change your entire perspective on the world around you. Your outlook is so much more positive because you know how lucky you are to have your home, your belongings and your family safe.  

The specific DAT call that I'd like to share with you is close to my heart because this person had lost everything and on top of it all had very advanced staged cancer. He had been homeless for years and had finally saved enough to get a home and a few things for himself. Many of us know people who have had cancer and we've seen the toll it takes on those people. It's exhausting to try to function on a daily basis and the physical pain and mental frustration is never far away. This amazing man had worked so hard for what little he had and lost it all.

The fire had started out in the neighbors shed, they assumed it was a mix of chemicals from cleaning solvents. Before it could be contained the fire consumed the homes of 4 people. When I arrived on scene everything was dissolved to ash, even his brand new bicycle which was his only mode of transportation. But the most wonderful thing about this call was the family and neighbors. People came from around the block with pizza, 6-packs, water, hugs and smiles. These helping hands offered to drive him to whatever appointments he needed to get to. Without even being asked, they took it upon themselves to start cleaning up the wreckage that the fire had left behind. They took care of him as if he were their own. 

We see it countless times on the television when watching huge disasters pull people together. We completely forget our disagreements and find the common thread that keeps us together; compassion. As a DAT member with the American Red Cross we get the most incredible opportunity to see this all the time. Being a DAT member is not for everyone, it requires training, dedication and the ability to wake up for 3:00 AM fires, floods, and any other kind of disaster or emergency. Those of us that do it, love it and live for it. Being able to give someone something tangible - food, clothing and shelter - when they thought they had no where to go is a great feeling. Being able to give someone hope and direction is an even better feeling. 

This man was able to get back on his feet despite the odds against him with the help of his wonderful friends, family, neighbors, the Red Cross and its donors. R
ed Cross does not receive funding from the government and every dollar we spend to provide food, clothing and shelter come directly from the generosity of donors. Furthermore nearly every DAT member is a volunteer who has been specially trained by the Red Cross to provide these services. I can't say enough about how wonderful Red Cross is and how much I love my teammates on the Disaster Action Team. 

Prepare Central Valley

The American Red Cross Central Valley Region is working every day to ensure our communities are ready for disaster by training individuals in lifesaving skills and empowering local businesses and community organizations to develop the necessary skills, resources and networks needed to prepare for a disaster. By fostering a culture of readiness through personal preparedness and collaboration between location organizations, communities become much more resilient and are able to recover quickly following a disaster.

Over the past two years, the Prepare Central Valley Campaign, in partnership and funded by Pacific Gas and Electric, has trained over 5,000 people throughout the Central Valley in emergency preparedness skills. Team Firestopper has reached nearly 6,000 homes with important information and training in fire prevention and safety. We are eagerly awaiting a booming third year in this campaign where we have plans to bring in more training's in schools and businesses than ever before.

We would be happy to set up a training that fits your needs. Below is a list of resources and programs that the American Red Cross Central Valley Region can offer your community:

Individual Preparedness Programs
Are you and your family prepared to take care of your own needs for the first 72 hours after a disaster or emergency? Get started with the following free programs:

Personal Preparedness Training
Free one-hour Be Red Cross Ready training courses cover the action steps necessary to ensure that individuals, families and their communities are prepared and ready to respond to any disaster and emergency, large or small. Also available in Spanish.

Youth Preparedness Training
It is important that children and teens know what to do in an emergency. Youth can be prepared by attending one of the following free one-hour courses: Be Red Cross Ready Teens, Ready K.I.D.S., or Masters of Disasters.

Firefighter Frank & Friends Puppet Show
Parents know the importance of learning fire safety skills, but may not have the resources to make the process fun and non-threatening to children. Join Firefighter Frank and his friends as they prepare youth ages 4-9 in this 45-minute puppet show extravaganza that educates participants in how to perform fire drills, how to stop, drop and roll, match safety, and crawling low in smoke.

Community Disaster Resilience
Is your organization ready to play an active role in a disaster relief operation? Get involved now with the following programs.

Community Sheltering and Feeding
Providing safe food and shelter after a disaster is the most critical component of the Red Cross disaster response program which is made possible through public and private partnerships. The Red Cross can evaluate your facility as a potential shelter site and train your team to manage shelter operations and care for the community.

Ready When The Time Comes
This program engages businesses to prepare teams of employees to be ready immediately to help in a time of
local, large-scale disasters. Ready When The Time Comes volunteers serve as a reserve corps that can be called upon when a disaster strikes to operate a call center, staff a community shelter and more.

Organizational Readiness Programs
Is your organization equipped with the skills, plans, networks and supplies necessary to safely respond to all hazards? Learn how by joining the following programs:

First Aid and CPR Training
Sign up for a course hosted at a training location near you or invite the Red Cross to your facility. Available training modules include First Aid, CPR, AED, and more. Trainings can be conducted in a classroom setting or using a combination of online and classroom learning. (Fee required)

Ready Rating Program
This program provides an easy-to-use online five-step framework to help organizations assess their readiness for all types of emergencies. When joining this free program, members make a commitment to improve their readiness over a one-year period and appoint an internal coordinator to lead those efforts with the support of the Red Cross.

For more information call Red Cross at (559) 455-1000 or check out our website for more information.

Moore, Oklahoma

I was deployed to Moore, OK on Tuesday June 11, 2013 and returned Saturday, July 29, 2013.  This was my first deployment and I had no idea what to expect.  I arrived at the airport and picked up a car that I used the entire time I was deployed.  Upon arriving at headquarters, I met with the mental health managers, receiving room information and a phone and my assignment.  I was assigned to the largest and busiest Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC 4) to provide mental health services to families affected by the Spring Storms, including tornadoes and floods, of May 11 and May 29-30.  

 When I first arrived, I was assigned to sleep in a dormitory room at the University of Oklahoma, rooming with a nurse.  The arrangements were comfortable, with shared bathrooms.  Sleeping bags, pillows and blankets were offered if you did not bring your own gear.  There were snacks and water provided by the Red Cross, along with toothbrushes, shampoos, toothpaste, etc.  I learned that on this particular deployment, I didn't need to pack much and will definitely pack lighter next time.  

When I arrived at MARC 4, which was only a mile away from ground zero, I found my Supervisor and I was immediately providing mental health services to children and families, stabilizing clients and making longer term referrals to local mental health agencies.  We had an excellent group of 5 therapists working together and camaraderie developed quickly.  Staff knew the mental health therapists by the blue tape that was put on the back and shoulders of our red cross vests.  We worked long shifts: 8am-8pm. I was there to work, so the long hours did not bother me.  Self-care is extremely important, so taking lunch and other breaks is important in order to look after yourself.  

It took 2-3 days to get my "sea legs" so to speak, and it was constantly busy.  On day 5, all my fellow mental health workers deployed out and I was asked to Supervise all mental health for MARC 4.  They also collapsed all the other MARCs into MARC 4 so we got even busier.  New therapists and counselors deployed and I spent the next two weeks training and supervising new volunteers, but was still able to work directly with clients, which was my reason for going to Moore in the first place.  I have two or three stories of amazing clients I had the privilege of working with that I'd like to share with you in my next blog.  I feel this was an amazing and humbling experience and I definitely wish to deploy again.  

I would encourage you to deploy if you haven't already done so.  The pictures you see do not even come close to capturing the magnitude of the disaster.  The swath of the tornado was 1.5 mile wide and 17 miles long.  Then the rains came and flooded everything within minutes.

Thank you, Glenda Love, LCSW

Become a Red Cross Volunteer today!

Volunteering With Red Cross

A year ago, I never thought that I would actually be volunteering for The American Red Cross.  I’ve always watched on television how much help they’ve done for families around the world and that made me want to help out too.  Finally, in the beginning of the year, I was going through a lot and I knew that I needed to do something to help me forget about everything and do something for others.  I decided to sign up to volunteer at the Kern Chapter of the American Red Cross.  

I signed up for the Department Assistant position; then in March, Health and Safety Director, Gaby Tamayo called me to offer me the job.  I was extremely happy because I was finally going to be a part of a cause greater than myself.  I’ve been with the Red Cross now for about 5 months and it has been great! All the ladies that work at the office are always welcoming, crazy, fun, professional, and hardworking individuals.  I do a lot as a Department Assistant, which may include a lot of tedious work, but I love it!  If I’m not working at my other two jobs, you’ll find me at the Red Cross doing paper and computer work.  

I have also attended many health fairs.  Being very introverted and not one to initiate conversations, these health fairs helped me open up and talk to strangers about the key services and mission of the ARC.  My first health fair was with the Volunteer Coordinator, Amy Mayer.  She made the experience exciting and fun.  Once I went to at least two health fairs, I had the urge and confidence to do more without being shy.  Since then, I attend pretty much every health fair opportunity that comes my way.  I am also a part of the Disaster Action Team (DAT) and eagerly await my first fire call.  

My friends have asked me why I put so much of my time into assisting the Red Cross when they don’t pay me.  I tell them that I don’t do it because of the money; I do it because I love it.  I have gained friendships, experience, and love for my community.  Helping others has always been in my blood and the Red Cross has given me the opportunity to pursue it.

Written by American Red Cross Volunteer, Evelyn Herrera

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Summer Internship W/ American Red Cross

I started my summer internship with American Red Cross on June 17, 2013. It’s been quite an experience; it was my first real type of job. Of course I’ve done community events and seen the real hard world, but poverty is totally different than what I’ve experienced here. Working with the Red Cross and their service to Armed Forces casework is pretty emotional, I mean I’ve gone through pretty hard stuff so when I’m reading different cases my heart aches knowing the pain they are going through. From death to injuries to premature babies being born, it’s hard. When it comes to follow up with the cases, I feel bad calling them sometimes. It’s like reminding them the pain they are going through all over again, I understand that helping them is what makes them feel better by getting their family together as a whole by sending their spouse, son, daughter, father, etc. home. Being a part of a military family is hard, when you need your soldier home to help you, to protect you from all your worries and hardships, to be your shoulder to lean on but they’re not there. They are millions of miles away and you can barely talk over the phone. That’s where American Red Cross comes in. They help in any way they can to get you connected with your service member. They reassure you that you aren’t alone. American Red Cross tries to do everything they absolutely can to help military families; sometimes it’s a harder situation than others.

When I’m done with this internship I want to be more engaged with my community. I honestly love helping people, sometimes it does get emotional but that’s life. You have to have hard times to appreciate the good. I love being a part of charities and community events, when you see the smile on the helpless child’s face that you just gave clothes to or even a Christmas gift. That’s what makes you feel wonderful. Life works in mysterious ways and sometimes you can never predict the outcome, but no one is ever alone. People are all around to help; even if you can’t see them.