My First Disaster Call

Here is the story of my first disaster call. I tried to make it as entertaining and honest as possible.  If you get nothing else out of my story, please realize how amazing the work the American Red Cross does and how  we are in desperate need of help through your fundraising efforts.   

Sunday night, 10:00pm PST. I am sitting at my computer watching “How I Met Your Mother”, with my mouse is hovering over the Microsoft Word icon, but I just can’t quite click it yet.  I have to find, read, and abstract a scientific journal article by the morning, but it won’t take that long. I have some time still. 

Then the phone rings, a number I don’t recognize.  Should I answer?  Who would call me late on Sunday if they didn’t know me?! Of course, I answer the phone.  It is the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the American Red Cross.  They tell me that there is a situation in which a shelter needs to be opened. 

So what am I thinking?  1) Wow, they finally called me. 2) I am already tired and this could be a long night. 3) I have a paper worth a healthy part of my grade due in the morning. 4) I have never done this before. What am I getting myself into? I guess this wouldn’t be a very good blog entry if I had just said no.  Luckily for you, I said yes, and the story continues.

I arrived at the chapter at 10:30pm and am greeted by the disaster director, who informs me of the situation.  He asks where my vest and ID are.  I told him I don’t have either of those, and he grabs me an official vest (tomorrow I am going in to get my photo taken for a badge).  We spent about 30 minutes waiting for other responders before myself and 4 others headed off in a van to the shelter site.  It took us 20 minutes to get there, and I couldn’t wait to get going.  We hopped out of the minivan and started to unload supplies.  I was the last one to grab things and the only stuff left was the teddy bears.  We all walked into the school gymnasium where about 20 people were sitting in the stands.  I immediately heard a high pitched squeal as I approached the families.  There was a little girl lying on a soft mat looking up at me smiling.  She looked so excited for the teddy bear. It was a great feeling to hand it over.  Next to her was a smaller child sprawled out fast asleep.  I placed the other bear I had next to her.  It is these types of moments you treasure as a Red Cross volunteer,  that remind you of why you give your time.   

For the next 2 hours I can’t say I did a whole lot.  This was a situation in which we were waiting to hear if we should open the shelter or wait and hope the families would receive the go-ahead to return home.  We provided blankets, drinks, food, and of course, teddy bears, and eventually got word at about 1 am that the families could return home.  As they filed out of the gym, each one of them thanked us clutching their Red Cross blankets under their arms. 

All in all, the experience was great. It wasn’t an adrenaline pumping thrill ride, but I still felt very satisfied in the end.  As I sat back in my computer chair at 2am to start writing my paper, I looked over at my sleeping roommate and realized just how cool it was, that this Sunday night, I  had and took the opportunity to help a bunch of folks in need, something not a lot of people get to do. 

After thinking about the night a little more, it is honestly scary to think about what would happen to these families had we not been there.  Given the current situation in the Red Cross, in which we are struggling to raise enough money for major national disasters, how will our communities raise money for these smaller disaster that get no publicity?  I urge everyone to fundraise for the Disaster Relief Fund so that the American Red Cross can continue to do its work locally and nationally.  

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One Response

  1. That’s so adorable that you even sat the teddy bear next to the sleeping child! How sweet :) . That does sound like a wonderful experience–and I bet the adrenaline helped you finish your paper ;-)

    A great fundraising method I use is the toolbar from I downloaded it and registered it to the American Red Cross so that all searching and shopping benefits the Red Cross; which means it’s free to give and help out because the sponsors donate for all searching and shopping! It’s a great way to help the Red Cross. I hope more people are using it!

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