California Storms Response: Stories of the Helpers
By Alex Keilty/American Red Cross
Hundreds of American Red Cross disaster workers are in California, helping people impacted by this two-week stretch of back-to-back severe weather.
The relentless storms have caused flooding, landslides, power outages, severe damage to roadways and numerous evacuations from one end of the state to the other. Almost 470 trained Red Cross disaster workers are helping people in California. Here are some of their stories.
“We enjoy having different scenery from our retired life,” says Lillian, who is serving meals with her husband at the Red Cross shelter in San José that was opened in response to flooding in the area.
“We don’t like sitting around,” says Jeff, and so they volunteer together here and also deliver blood donations to hospitals three days per week for the Red Cross.
“Lots of listening.”
That is what Gale, a retired Nurse, says is a big part of her day as an American Red Cross disaster health services volunteer in San José.
“I am helping people by listening, or helping them get lost medications, helping them get a cane or a walker,” says Gale.
“They want to know that somebody is here to support them.”Gail Carli, San Mateo Volunteer
“This is my first rodeo,” says American Red Cross volunteer Fernando. It’s his first time volunteering at a shelter set up in response to flooding in San José.
“I am impressed by how many people are willing to volunteer from other states, to come out from their homes and help us in California,” he says.
Fernando is part of a team of volunteers from across America who are providing beds and meals to people impacted by flooding.
“When I go home I lock myself in the house to decompress and think about what I have been through,” Anthony says, of how he deals with the hardest parts of volunteering in disaster areas.
Anthony has experienced the emotional ups and downs of being an American Red Cross volunteer numerous times, helping in shelters and assessing damage to people’s homes after disasters.
Anthony flew into San José this week from West Virginia to help at a shelter at Seven Trees Community Center for people who have been affected by flooding.
But it’s not all tough times as a volunteer. The best parts include travel to new places, sightseeing when off duty and visiting friends in other cities, according to Anthony.
“I jam in some fun every time,” he says.
After Lisa finishes her shift as a Disaster Health Services volunteer for the American Red Cross, she will catch a few good hours of sleep and then wake up at 4:30 am to get to her day job as a Registered Nurse in a hospital caring for children after surgery.
How does she do it all?
“I just figure out how to juggle it because it’s important to me,” she says. “These people are in an incredibly challenging situation,” she says about the residents seeking refuge from flooding across California.
The Red Cross relies on people like Lillian, Jeff, Gail, Fernado, Anthony and hundreds more volunteers who offer shelter and compassion to people affected by disasters please visit redcross.org/volunteer.