Friday, January 24, 2014

My Red Cross Story: Offering Comfort from Afar after Superstorm Sandy

In response to the overwhelming destruction of Superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012, the Mile High chapter operated an overflow call center to field calls from affected areas. The eight-day effort, made possible by 42 volunteers working 126 shifts, helped hundreds in the area hardest hit by the hurricane find resources for food, shelter, healthcare providers and other urgently-needed services. One of our own bloggers, Mary Hastings, took a shift on the call center. Here is her story of giving hope and help to hurricane victims over a thousand miles away.

When I crawled out of bed that morning, I followed my normal routine to get ready, which included watching the news for the latest developments on the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. I could barely fathom what it would be like to lose everything the way so many had during this catastrophic event. Like so many, I wanted to do something to help. Fortunately, the American Red Cross gave me that opportunity.  

I volunteered at the Mile High Call Center in Denver the first afternoon the national office had asked us to open to handle the tremendous overflow of calls from people needing help in New Jersey and New York. Initially there was a deluge of calls and with each call I answered I was moved by how grateful people were just to hear a calm, friendly voice on the other end. Lives had been turned upside down and people were desperately searching for food, shelter and clothing.

We had calls from people trying to get to shelters, from others trying to feed families and others frantic to help the elderly. One caller was crying because she was unable to drive anywhere to get her five children (including an infant) to safety; she was recovering from major surgery at home and no one could get to her to help.

We did our best to direct people to shelters and other resources, but what struck me most were the number of “thank you” and “GOD bless you” messages I heard. Through all of the chaos, people knew we cared and that made the experience very meaningful for me.

When I crawled back into bed that night, I knew how fortunate I was to lie down in a bed and pull the flannel sheets over my shoulders. An overwhelming peace came over me because, thanks to the American Red Cross, I was able to do something to help.

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