A house fire seven years ago. A stranded woman with three kids. A father with a dog. A kind man there to help.
All pieces of a puzzle connected to volunteer Melody Stevenson.
It was a Friday afternoon in February. Melody was home early from work with her kids, and was relaxing in the bathtub. Her father was in his apartment a floor below.
Suddenly, smoke came pouring up the stairs. Luckily, Melody, her father, three kids, as well as their two dogs and a cat, got out alive. Flames shot through the house.
Today, she can laugh about it. “I am eternally grateful,” she says of the events following the fire.
Red Cross Disaster Action Team member Tom Barnum arrived and discovered that Melody’s family had nowhere to go. They also lost most of their clothing, which was in the laundry room where the fire started.
He found Melody and her kids a place to stay and provided food and clothing. Melody’s dad didn’t want to leave his dog. He refused help, though his apartment was smoke-filled and damaged. So Barnum got to work and found a place that would allow the dog and Melody’s dad.
“He went above and beyond to help us,” Melody remembers. “I promised to give back.”
Six disaster responses, thousands of people helped and countless volunteer hours later, Melody has made good on her promise. She has helped people affected by Hurricane Wilma, flooding in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin and tornadoes and fires in Wisconsin.
Her family knows that when a disaster hits, they can count on her to help. They are proud of her for volunteering, and her motherly pride beams through when she talks about her blended family of six---three girls and three boys---and two grandkids. “They are 100% supportive,” she says. “My husband lets me go out and about.”
“Anything I do for the Red Cross, I love,” she says. “To me, helping others is a vacation. I get so much fulfillment from what I do.”
Melody’s way of giving back extends beyond disaster assignments. Two to three days a week, she is at the Milwaukee office, helping with shelter surveys and special Mass Care projects---at least until a disaster happens. Then she is ready to set up a shelter and help run it when people need a place to stay. When on assignment, she always has a smile on her face and warm words for her clients---some of whom have found simple ways to give back.
Melody fondly remembers a client who stayed at her shelter in Palm Beach, Florida after Hurricane Wilma. “She would bring me iced tea every day,” she remembers. “We would drink tea and talk.”
Bad memories from a fire seven years ago have been replaced by three years of Red Cross service by a dedicated woman with a desire to help. “I’ll work 24 hours a day,” she says. “I love every minute. It’s my vacation.”
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.