Thursday, October 3, 2013

Call Center Volunteer Connects 10 Families Separated by Colorado Floods

Few things are better than being reunited with loved ones after a long separation, especially when that separation was prompted by disaster.

Just ask Squeak Birgy, who has been among several at the American Red Cross Call Center fielding  numerous inquires about the Colorado floods.

The Red Cross established the call center shortly after the floods struck to help those affected by the floods. There have been thousands of calls to the center, covering myriad issues from what Red Cross services are available to where various donations might be made.

Often the calls are from people looking for a friend or relative whom they haven’t heard from since the flooding. That’s when Squeak, a Red Cross volunteer from Newberry, Mich., gets into the picture.

In multiple instances, a call has come in from someone desperate to find a loved one who has not been located. In every instance, the individual had made personal efforts to find their loved one or friend without success and now they were turning to the Red Cross for help.

Squeak spends a good portion of her daily shift chasing down leads. First, she sees if the person being sought has registered with the Red Cross Safe and Well program. Failing that, she turns to law enforcement and other resources in the area.

In one case she was able to reunite a person in Texas with a relative who had been airlifted from his home by helicopter and dropped off at a safe location; the paperwork with his whereabouts listed had been mislaid, but Squeak was able to locate him.

By the end of September, Squeak had reunited 10 people who were missing with their and friends and relatives.

Leonard Garyson, a Red Cross volunteer who oversees the call center,  quickly admits that he’s in awe of her abilities, adding that it’s something he couldn’t have done.

 “Her compassion is outstanding. She has a caring heart and she puts a lot of effort into utilizing the resources she has come up with,” said Garyson, of Grand Rapids, Mich. “I can’t say we could have connected the families that we have if it hadn’t been for Squeak.”

After years of working as a clothing store manager and raising a family, Squeak and her husband retired to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She then began volunteering at a youth center, a women’s shelter and food bank. A friend suggested she try the Red Cross and she like being able to help people.

“It’s the best feeling in the world helping. Laughing and crying with people is so special,” she said.

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