Story: Red Cross Volunteers: First Here, Then There

This story is written by Red Cross worker Jerry Kindle.

Hundreds of people sought shelter from the American Red Cross as Tropical Storm Isaac began its move into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening communities throughout Florida with its winds and rain. Chapters all across the state prepared, and then opened, evacuation shelters as the threat became certain.

Disaster response such as this doesn’t just happen – it takes forethought, planning, and good old-fashioned hard work. While much of the thought and planning takes place months in advance, a lot of the work happens over the days just prior to the event. In Pensacola, FL, preparation began while Isaac was still in the Atlantic. Shelter locations were identified, supplies were gathered, and disaster workers were polled – then put on notice so they could complete preparations at home before moving into place to help others.

Why do they do it? Why do Red Cross volunteers spend hours and days planning and preparing, then leave their homes and take time away from families and friends to help when disasters threaten or strike? For Charlie Brower, the answer is easy: “I like to help people.” He especially likes being one of the first ones there to help.

As Isaac approached Florida, Brower did whatever task needed to be done. He helped gather supplies for the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) and did a lot of “running around,” as he called it, helping to get the chapter’s 16 shelters ready to go. Later, as the storm moved further west and the need for shelters diminished, Brower helped move supplies and equipment back to the warehouse and repack shelter trailers, so they’ll be ready to go if needed again.

So does that mean that Brower is back home – relaxing and enjoying some down time? Not at all. Instead, he’s traveling to Texas by air, then by car to Louisiana, where he’s been assigned to work with families affected by the storm. As a Client Services supervisor, Brower will meet one-on-one with individuals and families to help identify their disaster-caused needs. From there he’ll do all that he can to assure that these needs are met.

That desire to help, and to work directly with those affected by disaster, is what led Brower to the Red Cross in 1999. As a caring individual, working on his own, Brower responded to a disaster in Rock Creek, AL. During a similar response in Opp, AL, later that year, he stayed at a Red Cross shelter. It was his first introduction to the organization and all that it does. From there he learned everything he could and became committed to helping others as a Red Cross volunteer.

Brower and thousands of others like him are on the ground on the Gulf coast. They’ll be there as long as their help is needed. In the days just ahead, they’ll be providing people food, water and supplies. We need your help. This is a very large relief response that will last a long time. The Red Cross will be there for weeks helping people recover and, after a difficult summer of responding to wildfires, power outages and floods, Red Cross resources are stretched. People can click or text to donate by visiting http://www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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