by MaryJane Mudd, Regional Communications Director, American Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast Region
Donning her American Red Cross vest in anticipation of helping flood-ravaged victims in Southeast Texas, Colorado Mile High Chapter volunteer Linda Bisset recalled a life-altering phone call. “I used to sit there and say ‘American Red Cross volunteers do so much to impact humanity. I wish I could do that, too.’ When Hurricane Katrina hit, I realized the only thing between my helping and actually doing it was picking up the phone and calling the Red Cross. That was nearly 10 years ago and I’ve never looked back. The people I’ve met and the human resilience I’ve witnessed have changed my life.”
Linda and co-volunteer David Fugazzi arrived at the Beaumont, Texas Red Cross Chapter Office on November 3, ready to take on a “boots on the ground” mission — one of many during their combined 14 years of service and their second deployment together. What would motivate Linda, a former television news editor, to hop in a car and head across the country to distribute clean-up kits, water bottles and other essentials to areas residents—on short notice? Dave explained their shared desire to render aid to those in need, near and far.
“The common denominator among all American Red Cross volunteers, whether they choose to help in the office, the warehouse, or as an emergency relief worker deployed outside of their region, is the desire to contribute—to make a difference.” While prepping the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) for the distribution of needed items in Hardin County, Dave continued “I worked at an Information Technology desk for more than two decades. This is my time to make a difference.”
Southeast Texas counties including Jefferson, Orange, Jasper, Newton and Hardin have received more than 16 inches of rain in recent days, resulting in the flooding of approximately 65 homes. It was this region Linda and David canvassed on November 3, giving clean-up kits and other essentials to residents in need. They empathetically conversed with flood victims, understanding that the gift of listening was something they could offer those with painful stories to tell.
Among them was the Hardt family, which had to take a row boat to approach their home. Dave filled the boat with bottled water and supplies while discussing recent rains and whether more would be on the way; then he left the homeowners with Red Cross disaster relief information. On another route they spotted a little boy riding his bike near his flood-damaged home. Linda gave him a coloring book while his parents looked on, whispering, “How would you like to have this? I like to color…do you?”
Asked about the most significant experience they’ve ever had, Linda said “It was during the California wildfires, when a woman lost her home. She lost everything she owned—absolutely everything. She said she believed God brought us to her, to help her. I will never, ever forget that experience.”
Dave added, “There are so many ways to get involved. You don’t need to deploy across the nation. You can help with the time you have available to you and the interests you have.” Linda, agreeing with him, said “It comes back to what I used to think. ‘Wow, I’d like to do that.’ People say it to me all the time and I tell them it’s not a big deal—just call. Make a difference.”
Although American Red Cross volunteers are a big deal to those in need, Linda’s modest statement rings true. It isn’t hard to take that first step. If you want to join them in aiding people during disaster, go to http://www.redcross.org and start your Red Cross story. It just might change your life.