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Flooding Gives New Volunteer Hands-On Training
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Timothy Kane , Volunteer, Quad Cities Chapter (Illinois)
August 29, 2007

Vicky Witt has a son in the Marines and has always been impressed by the way the Red Cross helps families of military personnel. In June, having arrived at a point in her life where she wanted to begin volunteering, she joined the Red Cross and suggested to her husband, Tom, that he join as well.

Volunteer Vicky Witt helped to serve more than 1,000 hot meals each day at a Red Cross shelter in Rushford, Minn.
Volunteer Vicky Witt helped to serve more than 1,000 hot meals each day at a Red Cross shelter in Rushford, Minn.
(Photo credit: American Red Cross)

On a stormy night two months later, their volunteering began with a crash course in Red Cross disaster relief.

The couple, who own a pharmacy in Rushford, Minn., were camping the evening of Aug. 18 when they were awakened at 2:00 a.m. by a knock on their camper door. A park ranger yelled at them to leave immediately because flood waters were headed their way.

As they drove back to their home in Rushford, the Witts passed the high school football field and noticed that water was up to the bumper of a car in the parking lot. Just a few moments later, the water was over the roof of the car.

“We had never in our lives seen any flooding anywhere in this town,” Vicky says. “We knew that something really bad was happening.”

‘This is the Drill’

Shortly after arriving home, the Witts received a call from their local Red Cross chapter asking Vicky to report to the Good Shepherd Retirement Home, where a shelter was being set up. She asked if Tom should come also, even though he was not yet an official Red Cross volunteer.

“They said, ‘Yes, we’re gonna’ need all the help we can get’, so Tom and I hurried over there as fast as we could,” Vicky says.   

 “It was an almost unreal scene,” says Tom. “All of these people who had been awakened and evacuated in the middle of the night were showing up, and they were wet and cold and kind of confused by it all.”

Vicky went straight to work registering people entering the shelter. “We had just taken a disaster response class at the Red Cross and we were planning on doing a practice drill, but we hadn’t done it yet,” she says. “I thought to myself, well, this is the drill.”

While registering shelter entrants, Vicky became concerned that some flood victims might be missing. A second shelter had been set up at the high school, but the two shelters were now separated by water and all phone services were down. With no other way to communicate, Vicky sent boat messengers back and forth between the shelters to share lists of shelter occupants.

Positive First Impressions

Since that hectic first night, the Wicks have had a few days to reflect on their initial Red Cross experience. Both say they came away with positive impressions.

“After watching what the Red Cross has done for our town, I want to be a part of it now more than ever,” Tom says.

“Because I was in the Red Cross, I was able to do something for the people in our town,” Vicky says. “In the beginning, they were our customers. But then they became our friends, and now they’re almost like family. Because of the Red Cross, I was able to be there for them when they needed someone. I can’t express how wonderful that feels.”

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation. Call 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.

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