From Bill Dorman, Volunteer:

Spring is often a busy time of year for the American Red Cross in Disaster Relief, and this year has been no exception.  Many volunteers assist in operations in other parts of the country in addition to their work in their own chapter.  I went to New Jersey in March when it flooded there and have just returned from Mississippi, which suffered from the same storms that recently hit Nashville and Memphis.  
During large disasters, such as the ones that are currently affecting the Southern Gulf Coast states as well as parts of the Midwest, the local chapter initiates the response and then volunteers from other parts of the country come and help.  In Mississippi, I worked with Red Crossers from all over the country, from Vermont to California and Pascagoula on the Gulf Coast to Corinth in the far northeastern part of the state which is where I was.  
We concentrate on sheltering, feeding, and damage assessment to start with, and then provide family services through caseworkers, health and mental health professionals.  In addition to those who work directly with the people affected, there are support jobs ranging from driving a truck to acting as Public Information Officer to setting up and maintaining computer systems, managing staffing and data entry.
I have been deployed to other chapters a number of times since I became a volunteer during Hurricane Katrina.  In Mississippi, I was the Shelter Manager in a large arena that is usually the setting for 4H shows and country music concerts.  I worked closely with the on-site Chapter CEO and Emergency Services Director and assisted them as a liaison to local community officials, charities and the media. 

This week I opened the newspaper and found to my surprise that an interview I had given at the shelter was the lead story on the front page.  I’ve been a Shelter Manager before, but it was an interesting experience to sit in a room with the Mayor, Police Chief, Emergency Management Director and most of the local charity leads and represent the American Red Cross.  This was in addition to the equally important job of helping some of our younger clients color between the lines in the coloring books we had gotten for them.  

Disaster Relief, whether for a single family fire or a Category 5 hurricane, is stressful, confusing and often chaotic work.  Many of us, however, find it to be one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done.  The hours are long, but there is often a great sense of camaraderie.  You might work all day trying to figure out where dinner is coming from, or have a few hours off to drive across the state line into Tennessee and visit the civil war battlefield at Shiloh.  And who knew that one of the great culinary delights of the world was a slugburger at the lunch counter of the 150-year -old pharmacy in Corinth, Mississippi?
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please contact Thad Rosenfeld, Community Resources Director at 512.929.1277. The efforts of our volunteers and staff and the generous donations of the American public are what make this work possible.

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