Through the Heart of a Red Crosser: The Power of Volunteers

Steve Wise is a volunteer with the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois who recently deployed to North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Florence. There, he helped run a mega shelter for people affected by the storm in September, 2018. Steve is now sharing some of his experiences.

Over the last two weeks within this building, the American Red Cross along with other organizations such as the Wake Forest University and the Florida Department of Health – stood up a Mega Shelter within this building.

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A mega shelter was set up here in Winton-Salem, North Carolina

At our high point, approximately 450 People sought refuge here from Hurricane Florence.  Some had arrived at this Shelter from coastal areas prior to the storm hitting their homes.  Others were relocated here where their immediate care could be managed by a larger staff.

On any given day…you would see between 30 and 50 Volunteers working at the Shelter.  Many came from states many miles away.  Others came from local areas surrounding WFU.  Some brought their Medical or Mental Health skills to tend to the many and various needs that Evacuees have.  Others brought their Managerial skills that are needed to put procedures in place and ensure that proper and timely actions are taken to tend to the needs of our People.

It is truly special to see Volunteers – who basically are strangers to each other prior to this Shelter – come together and work as a Team in short order.  Every Volunteer knows that they are there first for the People that need our help.  Second, we know that in order to provide the services that our People need – we quickly must blend together and share our skills and experience that are so badly needed.

Time and time again and in whatever setting or disaster response – you will see the Power of Volunteers.  They put their family and/or work life on hold for the time being – and make the time to help those in need.  They come where their help and skills are needed, they find out what needs to be done and how they will be used, and then focus on taking care of business.  All the while knowing that their efforts are so badly needed by the People who were so negatively impacted by the disaster that came their way.

For those of you that would like to help out others in their time of need – think about joining the American Red Cross (  You cannot put a price tag on the feeling that you get…when you are able to help out someone when they needed it the most.

Written by Steve Wise, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois Disaster Volunteer

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