Story and Photos by Roberto Baltodano
James “Jim” Woof is one of the kindest men you could ever meet. After serving his country for 38 years – where he retired as an Army Chief Warrant Officer, Jim decided he wanted to help people, and so, he called the local Red Cross in York, Pennsylvania and joined as a disaster responder.
Once a registered volunteer, Jim trained to be a Logistics Support Specialist – he identifies, inspects and assesses the sustainability of potential shelter and service facilities, negotiates and completes facility agreements to ensure a safe and effective service delivery operation. In this role, Jim has deployed to help people affected by floods in Missouri, South Carolina and most recently in deep Southeast Texas – where he went out of his way to make sure families got the help they so urgently needed.
When Jim first arrived in Beaumont, Texas, he was tasked with coordinating with Newton County authorities to, identify and secure several locations where the Red Cross could open Multi-Agency Resource Centers or MARCs. These centers serve as one stop shops where families affected by disasters like floods, – can get food and water, basic first aid services and cleaning supplies. Most importantly, families who visit MARCs can find a little peace of mind when they meet with Red Cross caseworkers and several helping agencies – like Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army and others.
Once Jim finished securing these sites, he went on to open the MARC in Newton County; he rolled up his sleeves, cleaned and organized the gym, moved tables and chairs and put up the signs that would make it easier for people to get help.
Soon, Jim was joined by Hector Campos and Richard “Al” Warren, two Red Cross volunteers who specialize in Information Technology – or Disaster Services Technology, as it is called in the Red Cross. Hector and Al set up the computers and Internet service that would connect people’s needs with valuable resources. Together, these three volunteers got everything ready for the grand opening.
A few days after the MARC had been opened, Jim learned that a church event had actually been scheduled for the upcoming Saturday – this meant the gym would not be available and the MARC would have to close for a day. Jim made a few calls, and thanks to Joe Miller and Molly Will from the Newton Fairgrounds Association, Jim secured a temporary location at the Newton County Fairgrounds. It was Friday, March 25th at 8:00 p.m.
That Friday night, Jim, Hector, Al and the rest of the volunteer team waited until everyone at the Newton MARC had been taken care of, and as soon as the doors closed for that night, the three amigos folded 12 tables and, 30 or so chairs, collected signs, disconnected the computers, packed the satellite equipment and loading it all up on a Red Cross truck. A sign was placed at the door letting people know where to go on Saturday.
The next morning, Jim rose early and drove the truck to the Fairgrounds, cleaned the place, organized tables and chairs, put up signs and this time, made coffee for Hector and Al who came to help set up the network – all over again. By 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, the doors opened and families met with caseworkers. Help and hope was available to those in need, thanks to Jim, Hector, Al and their team of dedicated volunteers.
You too can help. Visit RedCross.org/Volunteer and become a Red Cross volunteer, and like Jim, Hector and Al, give help and hope when needed most.