My name is Cassie Wilander, and I am a marketing and communications intern at the Red Cross of Greater Chicago. Every week I come to work, I learn something new either about marketing or about myself. Every day, our volunteers go out to local fires or other disasters and offer Red Cross assistance and aid. Last week I went out on one of these disaster calls to a fire on the Southside of Chicago with an AmeriCorps VISTA. This was my first time accompanying disaster services on a call, and my main objective was to sit back and observe. I had no idea that what I saw would impact me so profoundly.
It was easy to find the fire with all the neighbors standing outside and the lights of the police cars and fire trucks flashing. We pulled up in a large Red Cross van that was stocked with stuffed animals for kids and packs of the essentials like shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste etc. The house was a small two story and the front picture window was gone whether from the heat of the fire or the spray of the hoses. We found the woman who lived there and learned the fire took everything that was in her bedroom, while the rest of the house had various level of smoke damage. Nothing was left untouched. She and her five kids had no place to go.
After getting her information and assessing the damages, my partner explained to me the Red Cross gives funds enough to proved food, clothing and shelter for the first 24-48 hours after the fire. This is when it struck me how important our donors are. The donations the Red Cross receives were able to aid this family in their time of need. Instead of worrying about where they were sleeping that night, this mother could concentrate on more pressing matters like replacing her son’s medicine, finding a more permanent housing situation and washing their clothes that smelled of smoke.
I knew that donations drive a non profit like the Red Cross; I had just never experienced their impact on such personal level. This ride along has changed how I view my internship. It’s not just a resume booster, but a means to help support those that really need our help. I am extremely proud to work for such a great organization.