Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Red Cross Month Volunteer Profile: Alyson G.

by Stan Frank

For over 60 years, the President of the United States has designated March as American Red Cross Month. It is a month when we celebrate our volunteers and supporters who make the mission of the Red Cross a reality.

This month, we are taking a moment to celebrate the volunteers who raised their hands in 2017 to support an unprecedented year of disasters across the country and around the world. From natural catastrophes including hurricanes and floods to devastating wildfires and a tragic mass shooting, the Greater New York Region of the American Red Cross deployed more than 300 volunteers to deliver hope and help during a remarkable time.

We asked several volunteers to share some of their deployment experiences. Today we hear from Alyson G.

Alyson (3rd from right) with the External Relations Team in Houston.
What first motivated you to become a Red Cross volunteer?

The Red Cross helped my parents and grandparents many times. Our family home is in West Point, Kentucky, on the Ohio River. Our house was severely damaged in the floods of 1934, 1945, 1964 and 1997. The Red Cross helped my family during very emotional and financially stressful times. My family members have never forgotten that the Red Cross paid for hotel lodging, gave them money, and brought food, water and cleaning supplies to their town. Plus, I developed an interest in disaster services based upon global warming predictions and recent natural disasters that have affected the United States.

How many times have you deployed and where? What was your mission?

I have only deployed once, to Houston, Texas. My assignment was through an American Red Cross national partner, Lott Carey. Lott Carey is an international Christian missionary organization. One of its initiatives is disaster preparedness and response.

I was assigned to Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Operation Headquarters (DRO HQ). I served in the roles of External Relations, Community Engagement Partnerships.

What did you do on a daily basis?

My main role was to act as a liaison between the Disaster Relief Operation Headquarters (DRO HQ) and a collection of more than 30 churches. These churches were points-of-distribution (PODs) sites for the Red Cross. Daily, the PODs received hundreds of meals and numerous palettes of bulk deliveries from the Red Cross and disseminated them to local residents. My job was stay in constant contact with the PODs, fulfill their requests by adjusting orders for more or less food or supplies, and to help resolve problems in delivery. I also performed various tracking exercises, recording the dates, types and number of feedings and supplies on behalf of the Red Cross.

I also performed work for the External Relations team that was not related to the points-of-distribution. For example, I:
  • helped to move Red Cross’ unsolicited donations out into the affected community;
  • assisted a Red Cross shelter in obtaining identification for residents who lost their IDs in the storm; 
  • searched for housing for people with special needs;
  • organized bulk supply and meal drops for large council member-sponsored and community events;
  • recycled hundreds freshly laundered Red Cross blankets that had been used in the shelters by finding other service organizations that could use them;
  • participated in government and non-profit tabling events. My focus was assisting the community with Red Cross’ Hurricane Harvey Immediate Assistance (HHIA), a financial assistance program for impacted families; and
  • I was also a contact person for corporate volunteers. 
Everyday seemed to be the same, yet somehow unexpectedly different.

Can you tell us what touched you the most during your deployment?

The most touching to me, on a micro level, was feeling I helped people that I could not see. My job was almost 100 percent in the Disaster Relief Operation Headquarters (DRO HQ). I rarely ever went out into the community. I dealt with distributions in bulk, not in small or single serving sizes. Yet, I received phone calls from people who received my number from one of the churches or a councilman’s office. People would ask for replacement walkers or glasses that were lost in the hurricane, or for disaster mental health counseling. It was very rewarding to speak with people that I went to Texas to help and to know I assisted them.

On a macro level, I was touched by the size and speed of the disaster relief operation (DRO). I had never seen a DRO before, and Hurricane Harvey was a level 7! I spent three weeks in October 2017 in Houston. When I first arrived, headquarters was approximately three floors and teams were divided into divisions and two Red Cross shelters were open. Red Crossers came from all over the country, including Hawaii.

Headquarters was incredibly busy. [To me,] it looked like all the Red Cross class text had stepped off the page and come to life. There were groups for all areas of operation: logistics, mass care, technical services, etc. There were big screen televisions airing continuous weather reports or interactive maps or staff schedules and contact information. I witnessed the DRO HQ deploy approximately 60 Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) assigned to Houston to the California wildfires in roughly a day.

When I left the DRO, [three weeks later,] one shelter had closed a few days earlier and the other was closing. The PODs were closed. The DRO was no longer subdivided into divisions. The DRO in Beaumont, Texas, was closed and combined into Houston’s. All the HQ staff was located on one floor, and it was a ghost town. Tables, equip, etc. were all being packed up and put away. I could not believe the Red Cross moves so fast!

Thank you Alyson for sharing your experience and for traveling to Texas in the fall of 2017 to deliver the mission of the American Red Cross. We are grateful for your service and for the long standing partnership we share with Lott Carey. #RedCrossMonth

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.