Friday, April 23, 2010

"It’s humbling to think that something that small can make that big of a difference..."

Today we'd like to introduce you to Helen Harrah, a Disaster Services volunteer.

What do you do for the Red Cross?

I volunteer with our Disaster Action Team (DAT) and am teaching basic disaster relief training courses (but would eventually like to teach more!). What does the Disaster Action Team do? We respond to house and apartment fires. The fire department calls us with an address, and we travel to the fire site and assist the clients. We go through a casework process (which involves a lot of forms!) to determine their needs (shelter, clothing, food, etc), and distribute a Client Assistance Card (like a cash card) to them. We also refer them to other social service agencies, and let them know who they can follow up with at the Red Cross office. We also do a lot of listening, hearing them out and acknowledging what they’ve been through.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the Red Cross, and how long you have been a volunteer?

I’ve been a Red Cross volunteer for about two and a half years. I started several months before I retired, because I knew that when I retired I wanted to do the things that I wanted to do and couldn’t do when I worked. My job didn’t allow me to take much time off. I picked the Red Cross because I was excited about the organization and knew there were a variety of opportunities here.

What is the most interesting aspect of your job duties with the Red Cross?

The most interesting thing is the cross-section of people that I see who are affected by disasters. There’s not one group or socio-economic status- we’re all equally affected by disasters.

What does it mean to you to be a Red Cross volunteer?

Being appreciated by our community and other staff and volunteers. I could be sitting at home doing nothing, but instead I’m giving back to people and our community now that I have the time to do it.

Why do you volunteer?

Once I made a commitment to really get into volunteering with the Red Cross, I realized how much I got back from it. I’ve come to appreciate the American Red Cross more. It’s been amazing for me to see how good people are even in the worst of situations, and I feel like I’m a better person for it.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for the Red Cross?

I like to travel, especially finding new places to go. I try to visit my mother more often, and go hiking, camping, tend my vegetable and flower garden, and volunteer at my church. Basically, everything that I didn’t have the time to do before!

What has been the most memorable thing you have seen working with the Red Cross?

One thing that was really memorable for me was distributing clean-up kits after the August flooding last year. I only helped out for about 8 hours, but it was a really great feeling to see the way people appreciated us and responded to the simple things like buckets, mops, and bleach. It’s humbling to think that something that small can make that big of a difference in people’s lives.

Thank you Helen, we're proud to have you as a volunteer! Are you interested in joining the DAT Team, or being trained as a Disaster Relief volunteer? We train volunteers to engage in 30 distinct activities during a disaster through our Disaster Services Human Resources (DSHR) system! Call 561-3770 or visit our website at to find the office nearest you.