A View From the Field: American Red Cross Volunteer Eric Gordon Assists Victims of Flooding in New Jersey
By Eric Gordon, Volunteer, American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
April 2, 2010
As a Red Cross volunteer on disaster deployment, I was faced with a multitude of challenges. After a marathon travel day I found myself maneuvering a rental car through the twists and turns of the New Jersey freeway system en route to a morning meeting at the Disaster Relief Operation Job Headquarters in North Brunswick. On a normal day, I serve as an AmeriCorps NPRC member in the San Francisco Red Cross office. But this week, I was deployed to serve as a Public Affairs liaison in response to the extensive flooding that struck Central and Northern New Jersey.
The scattered flooding lead to the establishment of a Red Cross emergency shelter that housed over 600 individuals, as well as bulk and mobile distribution operations that provided more than 6,400 disaster clean up kits and 86,000 meals and snacks to affected residents. The operation saw over 500 volunteers come together from all corners of the country to provide help to those in need.
In between writing press releases and media alerts, contacting media outlets and providing logistical support to the operation and chapter headquarters, I utilized my bilingual abilities to reach out to the large Latino population in the townships of Bound Brook, Manville, Middlesex and South River. After creating a flyer in Spanish to advertise the National 1-866-GET-INFO helpline, San Francisco Disaster Manager, Aaron Litwin, and I set out to distribute the flyers and inform members of the affected communities of the free services available to them through the American Red Cross.
In Bound Brook, the town that endured the most damage in the Central region, I was able to befriend several local shop owners who proudly displayed the Red Cross flyers in their storefront windows. I was also able to encourage local residents to seek assistance by reminding them that the American Red Cross is a neutral organization that does not ask for documentation or identification.
As the operation wound down, I was excited to return to the Bay Area, “Where I do not have to drive and worry about making wrong turns.”