By Michelle Hankes
The word "community" can mean many things to many people. It may be a neighborhood, a city, a congregation. According to Merriam-Webster, a community is a unified body of individuals or people with a common interest, characteristic or history.
In a disaster, communities of all types come together as families support each other in their grief of loss and persistence in recovery. No matter how large a disaster, whether it is a hurricane that strikes multiple states or a fire that rages through vast acres of land, the disaster starts and ends locally with the people affected by it.
Yet there is also a broader community.
The American Red Cross stretches from Alaska to Puerto Rico; from Maine to Hawaii. Every state and city is part of the Red Cross community. This community is made of volunteers and paid staff. It may or may not have a building that can be seen to be present in a city or county, but it is made up of people who are passionate about the mission of alleviating the suffering caused by disaster.
These are the people who leave their homes on Christmas day to help a stranger whose house is burning. These are the people who spend Thanksgiving at a shelter filled with people who can't go home because of a flooded river. These are the people who don't ask Why they should help but rather HOW they can help.
This is the community of the Red Cross. It is one community in that no matter where the disaster occurs, when the call for help arrives, volunteers raise their hands and offer to leave families and jobs to assist where the need is greatest. There are no borders in the Red Cross; Resources of time and money and goods are made available based on need rather than politics.
This spirit of community was seen first hand by Sandra Klein, a volunteer and Tiffany Circle leader of the Palmetto South Carolina Region of the American Red Cross. "Everyone in the country needs to understand the power that comes from uniting around a common goal," stated Ms. Klein. "There are ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) in the parking lot here in Charleston preparing to deliver supplies, and if you look at the doors, you'll see that they are from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Mexico. This is the Red Cross.
"This is one community."
(Caption for Photo: Emergency Response Vehicles from around the country prepare to serve the residents of South Carolina affected by Hurricane Matthew.)