Debbie Horn has learned what’s important when you’re deployed to a disaster: enough clothes for a couple of weeks, fellow volunteers, and gratitude.
During her most recent deployment, to help those in North Carolina affected by Hurricane Michael, she worked on a Red Cross food truck. These trucks, staffed with two or three Red Cross volunteers, bring food and water to the residents of devastated neighborhoods.
“I get to be out experiencing the devastation, out their talking to the people and seeing how they’re coping…You get to hear more of the stories of how people are coping with what is going on,” she said.
People always ask you where you’re from, she said and they say, “Thank you so much for coming all the way from Ohio to help me.”
Debbie also helped staff a food truck during Hurricane Harvey, and she remembers a little boy who came to it every day with his mother. He never smiled, but on the last day, when the volunteers told him they were leaving, he came over and wanted them to come out of the truck. He wanted to hug them, and he thanked them for coming. It’s the only thing he said to them all week.
Before a disaster is on the horizon, the Red Cross has planned with community partners how to meet the needs of those who will be affected. The food trucks offer a good example of the way the Red Cross works with local partners. Each truck, Debbie said, was assigned to a particular kitchen where the meals were prepared. The volunteers staffing the truck would go to the kitchen and pick up the food, then spend about half an hour at various stops delivering it.
Likewise, the local Red Cross in every community works with local partners to plan for shelter locations. When a shelter is needed in a given neighborhood, the Red Cross and community partners already know where it will be.
During large-scale disasters such as Hurricane Michael, a shelter can seem like a small village. Medical and mental-health services, as well as food and shelter, are provided. Along with regular disaster volunteers, the Red Cross trains and deploys specialized volunteers who have professional credentials, such as counselors and paramedics. In addition to their specialized training, they receive Red Cross disaster services training that equips them to function professionally during disasters large and small. These volunteers support the less visible aspects of disaster recovery, knowing that human beings are resilient and will go on to rebuild their lives.
Red Cross disaster workers from Ohio like Debbie have dropped their everyday lives to be part of the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross. Red Cross volunteers have staffed shelters; driven food, water and cleaning supplies into affected neighborhoods; and helped people develop recovery plans. Others have done psychological and spiritual assessments, providing care tailored specifically to people who have lived through a large-scale disaster.
The headlines change, but the Red Cross is there for the long haul. Until the water has receded, debris is cleared and homes rebuilt, the white trucks with the large Red Cross logo painted on their sides will deliver volunteers and meals, water and food and hope.
The American Red Cross has volunteer opportunities for you, whether you’d rather work with the public or behind the scenes. You can also help by donating blood or contributing financially. To find out more, go to Ohio Buckeye Region Red Cross. Thank you!