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.