By Lois Beckman and Lena Morris, Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteers
The American Red Cross is on the ground and providing disaster relief services across Texas. At the heart of the Red Cross are volunteers; those who have come from near and far to provide assistance.
Central Texas Chapter volunteer Tamara Klindt is locally based in Austin and spends much of her time working with the Preparedness and Logistics teams. Tamara, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for about five years, says her favorite aspect of the Red Cross experience is the opportunity to meet and work alongside others who come from various backgrounds, but share in the spirit of serving others and rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.
Monique Knight traveled to Austin from San Diego and says she volunteers with Red Cross because she understands what it’s like to be evacuated from your home during a disaster. Her personal experience came through the California wildfires that threatened her home in 2003. “It’s a terribly uneasy feeling to not know if you will have a home to return to,” she said. “I want to help make others aware that the Red Cross can help to alleviate some of that anxiety by providing basic needs and recovery assistance.” Monique, who has a professional background in public relations, uses her skills to volunteer as a Public Information Officer.
While each volunteer has a unique story about why they serve with the Red Cross, a common theme runs through each; the strong desire to help others. Neil Kurlander has spent a lifetime helping others. The retired police chief from Sarasota, Florida, has deployed several times for the Red Cross. He recalls his experience with the St. Louis floods last year, when he was working to conduct damage assessment. “I remember speaking with a woman who had been at the shelter for two weeks with her four young children. She had no idea the status of her home or if she’d be able to return when the evacuation orders were lifted,” he said. “My Red Cross partner and I were heading into the field and I wrote down her address so we could check on her home. I will never forget the look in her eyes when we returned and I was able to tell her that her home had only suffered minor damage. That ‘look’ is what keeps me volunteering with the Red Cross.”
Other volunteers have shared similar stories and personal motivations for choosing the Red Cross as the charity through which to dedicate their time. Larry Ohleyer, a retired Registered Nurse who served 23 years in the military, says he views the Red Cross as the greatest volunteer organization in the world. “As long as I can help someone each day, it makes my day”, said Ohleyer.
Currently, there are nearly 500 staff and volunteers supporting relief efforts in Southern Texas and while that number may seem like a great many, more volunteers are needed.
To learn more about how you can join the wonderful care of Red Cross volunteers locally, please call 571-439-1782.