Most of the people who know me personally know that I’m a little bit of a news junkie; however, I take very little news at face value. It seems as though almost everyone from social media to supposedly reputable news outlets tend to report news from their own perspective and objectivity is a thing of the past. So, why am I writing this blog? Well, I wanted to tell about my firsthand experience with the Red Cross.
I’ve been through two disasters: (1) Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and (2) the tornadoes that hit Alabama in 2011. In both instances I was very impressed and appreciative of the folks that traveled from all over the country to lend a helping hand. While going through those experiences, I was thinking that someday I would like to return the favor.
When Hurricane Harvey began bearing down on Texas, I wanted to go to Houston and started brainstorming about volunteering and which group to join. Like most people I had heard negative things about the Red Cross, so I decided I wanted to see for myself, so I went online and started the process. First, in order to be a volunteer you have to pass a criminal background check. This gave me a sense of security from the beginning. As I was working through the process, Hurricane Irma began to take aim at Florida. Consequently, the Red Cross stopped sending volunteers from Alabama to Texas , waiting for the storm to pass through, and then determining where to send the volunteers. Long story short, I was sent to Florida.
I arrived in Orlando at a staging area to await assignment and was amazed at the people from all over the country that came to help. Eventually I was placed with a 5 person group that was sent further south. We worked at two different shelters and spent a few days moving large box trucks from one staging area to another. Total deployment was about two weeks.
What did I learn and what did I see? First, it was not a vacation; we worked hard and I was very tired at the end of the two weeks. Most importantly, I met some really great people that had a heart for serving and helping others and that was the number one thing I took away from the trip. I witnessed complete strangers giving food and comfort to people that had been displaced out of their homes. Did I meet a slug or two…yes, but the percentage of high quality people with pure motives was overwhelming. Is the Red Cross perfect…of course not? They have several missions but their primary mission is to feed and shelter people in a time of crisis. If your home is damaged or destroyed, it will take a long time to get back on your feet, but the reality is the next day you will need something to eat, and that’s where the Red Cross comes in to help. They have the ability to come into a very large disaster area and start feeding and sheltering people on a very short notice with a workforce primarily comprised of volunteers. That’s amazing in itself. In my opinion, it would be impossible to have an organization of that size capable of assisting people on that large of a scale without having some paid employees directing traffic. The number I was given was 9 cents out of every dollar goes to administration and from what I witnessed happening on the ground, that’s pretty impressive.
In summary, I came away with a positive opinion of the Red Cross and would ask anyone who sees a negative comment on the news or social media to just take that with a grain of salt. Their goals and how they go about accomplishing those goals make our country better.