A drive to serve: Red Cross volunteers forge ahead with little rest

By Diana Rodriguez-Beaugrand, Staff Contributor, American Red Cross

Bill Dorman2
Bill Dorman, a longtime Red Cross volunteer, has worked on four disaster relief operations in as many weeks.

“I’ve been deployed four times since October 10th. I’ve had to deal with three floods and a fire pretty much non-stop. It’s hard, I’m old,” Bill Dorman said, with a self-deprecating smile.  

Dorman is an Austin-based Red Cross volunteer leading the flood response for the American Red Cross in Central Texas. All if his disaster response deployments this month have been in Central or South Texas. “This is why we’re here.  We’re a volunteer organization, we’re here to help. It’s important,” he says.

Every time Bill Dorman stands up to address his fellow volunteers each morning—many of whom have deployed as many times as he has—he reminds them that helping people why they do this work. More and more he’s addressing volunteer troops who’ve been deployed multiple times in the last couple of months to disasters ranging from floods to fires, but haven’t lost their drive to serve.

Emily Kaczmarek is a Red Cross casework volunteer who sits down one-on-one with families to provide recovery assistance.
Emily Kaczmarek is a Red Cross volunteer who helps coordinate and dispatch all of the other volunteers.

“I’m here trying to make it better,” said 23-year-old Emily Kaczmarek, a volunteer who’s been responding to disasters in Texas since Memorial day. “I’ve worked nearly a month straight, give or take a couple days off. I love doing it, no matter how hard.”

Kaczmarek is one of more than a dozen volunteers based in Texas who have worked on a big disaster response at least three times in the last couple of months.  Some have done all their volunteer work across Texas, others have gone out to help with wildfires in California, and floods in the Carolinas.

Michael Dow finds inspiration from the Red Cross clients he serves.
Michael Dow finds inspiration from the Red Cross clients he serves.

Michael Dow, a ten-year volunteer caseworker with the Red Cross, just  got back from South Carolina, and “hit the ground running all over Texas.”  No matter how tired he gets, Dow continues to push forward because he likes working with people. He says he’s been quietly inspired by some.

“There was a girl about 22 years old, a single mom with two little boys.  She lost her home to flooding in Tennessee, the only reason I knew that, was I saw her paperwork, when she came looking for some help after her house was flooded and lost everything here in Austin,” he said.

“People are strong, resilient. She didn’t complain, she just had to keep moving forward for her boys.  It gave me goosebumps, having lost everything, and here she was. One tough gal.”

With that young flood survivor in mind, Dow shared one last valuable lesson he’s learned as a Red Cross volunteer: “A disaster brings everybody together.”

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A drive to serve: Red Cross volunteers forge ahead with little rest

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