Bringing Hope: A Disaster Relief Journey

Excerpt from Chapter One - Becoming a Disaster Volunteer, 1992

My journey began in 1992. While working at Marquette University in the Financial Aid Office, I finally had a moment to look at the university newsletter. After reading about events on campus, one sentence on the back page intrigued me: “Disaster volunteers needed at the local American Red Cross office.” Hmmm... I set it aside for a while, never quite forgetting that simple sentence.

My husband Craig, a recent college graduate, was settled in a fairly new job. Our three teenage daughters were somewhat self-sufficient. And, I had finally finished my bachelor’s degree after ten years of full-time work and part-time college. Throughout the journey of my life, many individuals had helped me along the way through my years as a divorced and young, single mother. I always knew someday I would pay it forward. I believed the time had finally arrived.

. . .

Over the years, as natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods would occur, I became aware of other volunteers leaving to respond out-of-state. They would return with stories of providing much needed help to families devastated by various disasters. I felt as if I was missing an important opportunity to help others on a larger scale. I began the training to expand my role to become a part of the DSHR (Disaster Service Human Resources) system. The DSHR responder could choose one of many different types of volunteer roles. I could choose from sheltering, feeding, staffing, and more. I chose family service. As a family service caseworker I would work directly with those who would be impacted by a major natural disaster. When most people hear about the American Red Cross, it is usually because they see volunteers on the news, or maybe they donate blood. They may see shelters opened, or drivers in large vans handing out food and water. What isn’t seen on the news are the volunteers who help the family (or “clients” as we refer to the victims) move forward to put their life back together again.