Helping others, even during her own time of need
Evacuated and waiting to learn the fate of her own home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Red Cross volunteer Linnea Dunn — heroically — provided assistance to others
Like the 74,000 other people who were evacuated last week in response to the fast-moving CZU August Complex Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Linnea Dunn quickly grabbed what possessions she could and prepared to flee to safety.
As she started her car in the early-morning hours on Tuesday morning, August 18, Linnea glanced back at the home she has owned on 2 1/2 acres in the rural neighborhood of Bonny Doon, wondering if it would still be standing when she returned. Two days later, Linnea got the news she dreaded: Her home, which she had lived in for more than 25 years — and a second one occupied by two other co-owners of the property — were both gone.
The two homes are among the more than 500 residences that officials estimate have been lost because they found themselves in the CZU Fire’s destructive path.
After being welcomed at a friend’s Santa Cruz home that Tuesday, Linnea did what one might expect: She called loved ones to let them know she was safe, she found a temporary home for her four cats in a local animal shelter, and she waited for word of her home’s fate.
But, while she waited, she also did something that one might not expect — she decided to support her fellow evacuees through volunteer work for the American Red Cross.
“I’ve been volunteering for the Red Cross for 6 or 7 years, so it’s part of my routine to work extra during wildfire and hurricane season each summer and fall,” she says. “Even though this particular disaster impacted me, I felt like I could also help others while I waited for word about my own home. I didn’t want to just sit idle, so I provided support to the Staff Services team, which was very busy making and verifying assignments for the many Red Crossers who were already helping as part of this large wildfire response.”
Linnea’s decision to support others, even while she herself was so affected by the CZU Fire, touched — but didn’t surprise — Michele Averill, CEO of the Red Cross’ Central Coast Chapter that supports residents in Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz Counties.
“First, we were all so sad to hear that Linnea’s home was one of the many ones that this fire has destroyed,” Averill says. “She’s been an important member of our team here in our Santa Cruz office, regularly providing key administrative support and just helping with whatever has needed doing.”
But finding the time and energy to support our region’s current DRO, even while nervously awaiting word about her own home? “That’s who Linnea is,” Averill says. “She epitomizes the spirit and commitment that are so special about our amazing Red Cross volunteers.”
This week, Linnea, her two neighbors, and their cats found a place to rent in Palo Alto. “We were so lucky that another friend reached out with a place we could all stay in,” Linnea says. “He really threw us a lifeline.”
Kind of like the lifeline that Linnea, even in her own time of need, helped throw to others affected by the current fires in our region.
Just don’t tell Linnea that she did anything special. “During a disaster like these wildfires, evacuees can feel so helpless,” she says. “So, as someone who unfortunately experienced that during this disaster, I knew how they felt. Supporting others right now has also been therapeutic, helping me process my own challenges.”
“And,” Linnea quickly adds, “That’s what we Red Crossers do. We just step forward and do our job!”
You too can become a Red Cross volunteer: Please consider getting trained as a Shelter Worker so that you can help us help others during wildfires and other large disasters. For more information and/or to start your application process; just go today to redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.html.
For other stories related to this disaster response, please go to this site.