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The spirit of giving

By on November 24, 2020 in Uncategorized with 2 Comments
Controlled burn to fight a wildfire at Brewster brightens the night sky in this photo taken near the Red Cross shelter there.

For these volunteers, the Red Cross is a way to contribute to the community while finding their own healthy balance

By Linda Reid

The first call for help woke my husband Ken and I at 2:30 a.m. on Labor Day, as a rapidly growing fire in the Okanogan (again) had exploded and was heading south, threatening homes as it advanced. 

 As Red Cross volunteers, we were both on-call to virtually help evacuees. 

My assignment was to reach out to clients who had already called the Red Cross Hot Line because they were at level 3 evacuation orders (“Get out NOW”) and needed a place to stay. 

I would do a virtual intake interview with them by phone to determine their needs (shelter in a hotel, meals, health services, emotional support, spiritual care, pet care and more). Ken was assigned to then find and book them into appropriate hotels, since the Red Cross tries to avoid congregate sheltering due to COVID-19.

That 2:30 a.m. call was from a man who had escaped the fire with such little warning that he had left with only the clothes on his back and his dog. 

“I didn’t even have time to grab my medications,” he anxiously told me from the back of the Sheriff’s car as they drove away from the fire. Ken found him a room in a near-by hotel that was pet friendly, and I put in a request for Red Cross health services to call him about replacing his medications. 

 Ken and I had just dozed off around 4:30 a.m. when my phone rang again. It was a call from our same client who said, “I just thought you’d want to know, I’m checked into my room and I just really wanted to say thank you.” 

As the hours passed and calls rapidly came in for us to handle, the fire alarmingly jumped the Columbia River and headed toward Bridgeport and Brewster. 

As I interviewed clients over the phone, it was like dropping into the middle of their unique, family crisis, with all its chaos and complications right in the midst of packing up to evacuate. Everything else in my life fell away as I became one with them in that moment. 

This process is emotionally exhausting for everyone involved, and on days like this, work continues pretty much around the clock. 

However, it feels amazing to be able to assure our clients that the Red Cross has their backs, and they are not alone. We not only provide shelter, but we offer care and hope. 

I always remind myself that I am not there to fix my clients (they are not broken) or help them (they are not weak) but to serve them. We encourage them to believe that they are whole and holy, and they have the strength within them to get through this. 

This is life-giving work that makes a positive difference for those who are served and for those of us who serve.

Our pathway to becoming Red Cross volunteers came after our retirement and subsequent move to Wenatchee in 2016. We began looking for opportunities to contribute to our new community in ways that tapped into our belief in the dignity of the human person, care for the vulnerable, and promoting solidarity in community, all with a focus on the common good. 

We found that the Red Cross has a mission we can fully embrace. We pictured ourselves helping serve nourishing food to fire fighters and first responders during wildfire season. We had no idea of the broad range of service opportunities the Red Cross has to offer its 372,000 nation-wide volunteers. 

It surprised us that only 5 percent of the work force of the Red cross is made up of salaried staff, which means a full 95 percent of the work force is made up of volunteers.

Over time, we have cross-trained in several areas and can wear different “hats” depending on the need. This might involve Disaster Relief, or Blood Drives, or Disaster Preparedness, support for U.S. Military Families, or working with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, active in nearly 200 countries.

Our Disaster Program Manager, Hannah Christen, (part of that 5 percent that is Red Cross staff) coordinates the programs for Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties from the East Wenatchee office. One of her passions is Disaster Preparedness, especially installing home smoke alarms for the “Sound the Alarm” program. 

Linda and Ken Reid went to Okanogan early in November to do more post wild fire damage assessments. This was a mobile home, and the visit captures very well what the Red Cross volunteers do, said Linda. ”I meet with the owners, listening to their story and gathering information to send in to verify their request for assistance. It is very rewarding work and we feel blessed to serve in this way.” Photo by Ken Reid

Hannah recently told me about a woman who had come up to her at the end of a day of installing smoke alarms. 

She said, “I just wanted to thank you for my smoke alarm. Some folks from Red Cross put one in for me six months ago. I was away from home not long ago, and my next-door neighbor heard my smoke alarm go off. He came inside and found a fire had started in my kitchen. He was able to put it out and saved my home!” 

Hannah calls those kind of Red Cross experiences, “mission moments.” I have also heard one of our fellow volunteers refer to the work we do under the banner of the Red Cross as “worthwhile business.” 

Those “mission moments” and “worthwhile business” provided motivation for doing what we do. 

We have also come to appreciate the structure of the organization. There is always someone available to answer our call if we get into a situation where we are not sure what to do. A safety net is reliably there for every volunteer or staff person. 

We also love that the story of the Red Cross is local, national and global. It has operated for 140 years with the commitment to turn compassion into action. 

We believe in the Red Cross’ underlaying principles of cooperation and peace, impartiality without discrimination, unity, credibility, creativity, and commitment. We have observed in our three and a half years with the Red Cross that these values are reflected consistently in the actions of both staff and volunteers. 

On top of all that, whatever we give as volunteers is multiplied and comes back to us. 

On the day of the big Okanogan fire, every person I talked to and helped find housing expressed heartfelt gratitude. 

This work helps us keep our perspective and maintain a healthy balance in our own lives. We would even go as far as to say it contributes to our living “the good life.”

Red Cross welcomes inquiries about volunteer opportunities. If you want more information, you can email Linda at Linda.reid@redcross.org or call Kari Strain (Senior Volunteer Recruitment Specialist) at American Red Cross, NW Region (509) 679-8795, or go to www.redcross.org/volunteertoday. 

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  1. Sue Nies says:

    Blessings Linda and Ken! We miss you in Seattle but see that God has called you to such a life-saving ministry across the mountains. Thank you for sharing your powerful stories of “mission moments”. I learned so much about the varied touching roles of a Red Cross volunteer.

  2. Darlene selland says:

    This was a very informative, inspirational and uplifting article! Thank you to all the Red Cross volunteers who serve others in their time of need! God bless our first responders!

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