Feeding people for a lifetime

Susan Reese in the field.

American Red Cross volunteer – and recent transplant to Fairfield – Susan Reese always planned to work with the Red Cross when she retired. When Susan finally retired from the restaurant industry last year, she became a volunteer wildfire associate. While working at a Local Assistance Center (LAC) during the North Complex fires in Yuba City, disaster response leadership called for people to join the feeding team. Susan jumped up, and said, “Feeding is what I love doing!” Just like that, Susan’s first deployment brought everything full circle. 

Susan first had contact with the Red Cross in 1997 when she lived in Klamath, California. That year, the Klamath River breeched and flooded the town. Susan says that the entire area “was wiped out.” The Red Cross arrived and began to feed survivors and evacuees by bringing in food from a neighboring city. 

Yet, Susan owned a small business, The Requa Inn, which had a full kitchen. Armed with charm and more than a little moxie, she and a friend, who owned her own food truck, approached Red Cross representatives. Together, the two women suggested that the Red Cross use their services instead of shuttling in resources from out of town.  

Susan Reese’s 1997 reimbursement receipt from the Red Cross.

“BOOM,” says Susan. “We signed some papers, and we were serving 130 meals, three times a day for six weeks. The Red Cross saved my business.” 

Susan remembers making turkey dinners for the survivors. They were complete with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable – all while keeping within the price range that the Red Cross had set. “The turkey dinners were a real hit,” Susan says. “It was very fun.” 

Fast forward 23 years, and Susan is feeding survivors once more. “I don’t want there to be more fires,” she says. “But I can’t wait to do more work.” 

When asked why she thought the Red Cross was a good place to volunteer, Susan replied, “Not only does the Red Cross help everyone, but there’s something for everyone to do. Old people, young people – all kinds of people. Some can’t carry, some have knowledge, but no matter who they are, there’s something for everyone to do.”