Paul Witte, Disaster Action Team (DAT) Lead for Contra Costa County, first became involved with the Red Cross after 9/11 when he volunteered to work in the call center in Oakland. “I just wanted to help,” he said.
It was later, during Hurricane Katrina, when Witte got involved with the Red Cross on a regular basis. He worked in the Concord office, helping to manage donations for up to 70 hours a week. Witte later continued to take on several other roles with the Red Cross, including becoming a youth services lead and disaster team chair.
Since becoming the county DAT lead, his responsibilities have been, among other things, to put on-call schedules together and to make sure that Contra Costa County disaster volunteers are adequately trained and prepared in case of disaster. At any one time Witte has a team of around 95 volunteers available to help in case of an emergency.
When asked what he finds most fulfilling about volunteering for the Red Cross, Witte said, “I have been fortunate living in the United States, and this is my way of paying back what I am lucky enough to have.” Witte also said that he is only able to perform his job to the best of his abilities because of the training he received from the Red Cross.
Witte’s role as county DAT lead has come with challenges, but also touching moments. On deployment to the Daytona Beach tornado in 2005, Witte was in charge of the Emergency Response Vehicles and distribution trucks. “When we got there, there was a lady standing by a car crying. We stopped to speak to her. She said it was her mother’s car and was very upset. Even though the car was sure to be destroyed, she wanted to do something, so we put a protective plastic bag around it and she gave me a hug, thanking us for helping her,” Witte said.
In addition to his disaster services duties, Witte works as an independent instructor for health & safety, emergency training, disaster training, and as a preparedness instructor
“Every little bit you do helps somebody. No matter what you do or how small your role, it makes a big difference in people’s lives. That’s the bottom line of why I do what I do.”