Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The humble hero: volunteer Dan Bingham wins awards for labor of love

Dan Bingham was deployed to the High Park fire near Fort Collins when he got a call saying his services were required elsewhere… namely, back home in Craig, where his own family was being evacuated for a wildfire as well. But balancing volunteer time in his own community and wherever else he may be needed is a strong suit for Dan, who received commendation from the Colorado Emergency Management Association earlier this spring as the Outstanding Emergency Services Volunteer for the Northwest portion of Colorado. Dan will also receive the Red Cross Hero Award on April 26 for his broad range of volunteer responsibilities in his community. As Jody Acres, the Northwest Area Manager for the Red Cross said of Dan's devoted service, “If a disaster happens anywhere in Moffat County you can bet that Dan will be there serving in many different capacities.”

A self-proclaimed “under the radar kind of guy,” Dan brought his experience as an EMT to the Red Cross in 2004, hoping to help with tsunami relief in Thailand. Instead of serving overseas, he wound up volunteering in his own community of western Colorado, where he volunteers with a focus on disaster relief and preparedness. Although he is active in several volunteer positions with a number of organizations, Dan says the Red Cross gives “the real foundation” to his volunteer work. “I look at the Red Cross model for how to manage my time and give the right focus to those groups that need my time,” he said.

Dan’s first Red Cross deployment was to Louisiana, to help with Katrina relief in 2005. Within 24 hours of walking into a Union Hall-turned shelter, Dan’s skills took him from a data entry clerk to a position with a shelter management team, managing, as he put it, “all the nightmares and the successes you could imagine” in the region. His efforts helped to reunite families scattered by the storm, and his work as a shelter volunteer coordinated resources for hundreds displaced in the disaster.

While Dan’s work has helped countless individuals in his own community and in areas affected by regional disasters across the country, he describes his experience as a volunteer as “a lot of ups and downs, a lot of littles and bigs.” During his experience with Katrina, one story sticks out in his memory. While touring a shelter, he was able to help the organization reunite an elderly man with his neighbor, which helped the client reconnect with his family. Dan’s volunteer work during the disaster was on a regional level, but the story of helping an individual client is particularly salient for him. As Dan put it, “It’s not about the big things; it’s about the little things.”

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