Today is my 18th day working at the Red Cross Headquarters in Nashville, and I have been through every possible emotion, sometimes stressed, or anxious, happy, worried, scatter-brained and very thankful. After a brief job induction with the training manager, Alice, and an orientation that I later presented many, many times, I got straight to work.
The training function had to start from scratch, as all functions do. I was amazed at how quickly each group got up and running. Mass Care and Disaster Assessment were already very active, running shelters, starting mobile feeding, and sending out teams to detail damage assessment in the affected areas. It usually takes any new staff member two weeks to be trained and functional in any other job, but with the Red Cross, that’s all the time we have on the operation! It is an amazing organization, sending dedicated volunteers from all over to work together. Each volunteer can immediately be productive, working with people that they have never met before. Everyone understands their function and how they fit into the bigger picture of how we provide emergency relief.
In the training activity, I have conducted countless orientations for new volunteers coming to the relief operation. As I am one of over 3000 volunteers helping this community recover after the floods, I love having the opportunity to provide some guidance at the beginning, and update volunteers about how we are providing service to the community. One of the best parts of these three weeks has been the opportunity to go to the smaller Red Cross chapters in West Tennessee. I was sent to train the chapter staff and any volunteers in the DROMIS staffing database. There are so many volunteers working on this operation that we have had a difficult time tracking and reporting the numbers. One of the chapters was flooded and is now working out of the shelter that it has opened for those affected in that community. Many of the volunteers and chapter employees were personally affected by this disaster, and have been working nonstop to provide emergency relief for their communities.
This state really lives up to its nickname as the Volunteer State. In fact, over 2,000 of the 3,000 volunteers working with the Red Cross to provide Emergency Relief are local volunteers. I am always seeing AmeriCorps members here as well, from the Vista program, the State and National program and the NPCCC program. Though we all come from different places with different experiences, we have united with one mission to assist this state in its recovery process. We have had 63 Emergency Response Vehicles here for Mobile Feeding, served 146,000 hot meals, handed out over 20,000 clean-up kits, and opened 37 shelters. I’m leaving soon, and glad to get back to normal life. I love that I can leave with the knowledge that we have made a difference, and that the Red Cross still has a presence in Tennessee that will continue to help families and individuals recover.
Thanks to AmeriCorps member Lindsey Simons for this post.