For ten years, Dean Otta has volunteered with the Illinois Red Cross, and has deployed multiple times to respond to different disasters.
Dean recently deployed to Salem, Oregon where he was tasked with delivering food and supplies to communities impacted by the wildfires.
While in Oregon, Dean was sent as part of the first group of volunteers to Detroit Mountain to help with the devastation. He remembers speaking with one of the survivors, a veteran named Ed.
Dean recalls Ed sharing his story about sending his wife to evacuate their town first, and how he stayed back with another friend to gather as many personal belongings from his home into his pickup truck.
“They took off south down Route 22 and it was fire on both sides of the road. Trees burning, falling down on the road, the forest area was full of smoke,” Dean says.
Ed told Dean it was like a tunnel of nighttime and that he told his buddy, “We are either going to survive or we are going to perish in this fire.”
But Ed was later rescued by a military group who joined the Red Cross in assisting with relief.
Dean describes his deployment to Oregon to be his most impactful, and something he will never forget.
“We met a lot of the people that lived there, and I still get a little emotional,” Dean says. “To hear their stories of what they went through to survive that fire, I can’t imagine.”
Dean adds his motivation to become a volunteer comes from after he witnessed 9/11.
“When 9/11 happened, I knew I wanted to help people, to be a responder.”
As soon as he retired, Dean began to research ways he could get involved. He realized the Red Cross was the perfect opportunity for him to help others.
“That’s how I got started with Red Cross. Disaster Relief, I love it. I love going to a place where I feel I can make a difference,” Dean says.
If you would like to volunteer with the Red Cross, visit redcross.org/volunteer.
Written by Communications & Marketing Intern, Justin Wang