The massive wildfire that affected hundreds of homes and businesses in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, sprung out of control very quickly last week, forcing many residents to seek safety in shelters. The Red Cross is there to help as residents cope with the devastating situation. The Chicago & Northern Illinois region is supporting Tennessee by deploying local volunteers, like Joe Dillett to aid disaster relief efforts.
“It’s our duty to help people, and the Red Cross is an ideal way to do that,” said Joe. “Everyone needs help at some point in their life, and I’ve been blessed with good health. You’re helping people to get some normalcy back in their life.”
Joe, who is 73, has deployed to 12 national disaster relief operations across the country during his six years as a volunteer. This is his third deployment this year (thank you, Joe!), which included assignments during the floods in Louisiana and wildfires in California, where he drove emergency response vehicles and delivered supplies to families in affected neighborhoods. In Tennessee, Joe will manage shelter operations.
Joe is a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to home fires any time of the day or night. Joe and other volunteers cover 10 counties in Northwest Illinois. He was also part of a large volunteer corps that helped during the local response to tornadoes in Fairdale and Rochelle in April 2015.
Assisting people affected by the wildfires is the latest relief response in what has been a very busy year for the Red Cross, which responded to 15 large disasters across the country this year, 50 percent more than in 2015. More than 24,000 Red Cross disaster volunteers from all over the country provided the following this year:
- More than 200,000 overnight stays in more than 600 shelters
- Served more than 3.6 million meals and snacks with the help of partners
- Distributed more than 1.8 million relief items to people affected by these disasters