Friday, November 27, 2015

Semper Gumby

Story by Mary Reardon,, (803) 429-1918

Flexibility is key when volunteering; the Red Cross volunteer coordinators encouraged us to remember this in their email and during our initial/welcome briefing.   Unusual and rewarding opportunities emerge and lead one to see diverse aspects of the mission at hand.

In the waning days of disaster relief operations in SC, a group of 21 volunteers checked in to perform bulk distribution at a warehouse on Saturday, October 18, 2015.  After our initial briefing, twelve of us were diverted to support two alternate missions.  The first involved forming five teams and driving to disparate areas hard-hit by the flood to distribute/post flyers at public venues to inform residents of the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC).  The MARC would be established in a centralized shopping center to provide recovery resources for people affected by flooding.  We were briefed to identify locations where the affected public would probably patronize and get approval from managers before posting the flyers.  The teams encountered a wide variety of circumstances and employed their innovation to assess the areas and approach the public.   Volunteers posted flyers in libraries, pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, churches, strip malls, and fire stations.  In one instance however, a group of college students were posed with a unique situation.  Their zone included an area where many homeless people camped along the river.  They recounted the devastation as the affected residents told them bodies were still being recovered from the woods. 

On the lighter side, the teams reunited at Williams Brice Stadium to collect monetary donations for two hours, leading up to the University of SC and Vanderbilt football game.  We retired our Red Cross disaster relief vests and donned a garnet "Together" t-shirt.  Paired with another volunteer, we signed for a red collection bucket and were dispatched to different gates.  Over the next two hours, we encountered many generous fans.  Monetary donations included change and $1-100 bills.  As the game time approached, fans donated surplus football tickets to sell and proceeds were added to the buckets.  After our buckets were turned in, volunteers were given tickets to enjoy the game. 

On Sunday, October 19, 2015, the VolunTEENs supported the MARC, established at the Dutch Square Shopping Center.  Two adult members checked-in clients and the VolunTEENs served as ambassadors.  We later learned the "ambassador program" was used by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 9-11 NYC MARCs.  One ambassador was paired with each client and accompanied the client as they met with various relief agency reps: this ensured support and eased transitions.  The high-school aged VolunTEENs did a wonderful job; they were professional, empathetic and flexible.  Some VolunTEENs also assisted "Save the Children" representatives by supervising young children who accompanied their parents/guardians.

For information on joining or starting a Red Cross Club, visit and contact your local Volunteer Manager. 

Semper Gumby!

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