20160608 Eric Jones Picture at Lee County Shelter of Roy and June Bergeron and Bob and Marjie Day
Photo credit: Eric Jones/American Red Cross

Story by Elizabeth Morse
American Red Cross volunteers Bill and Marjie Day recently delivered supplies to the Lee County, Texas, Red Cross shelter being run by Roy and June Bergeron. There would be nothing unusual about that, except for the fact that both couples celebrated their Golden anniversaries earlier this year.

Bill and Marjie Day
“It’s been a strong marriage so far,” Marjie Day remarked. She and her husband, Bill, started life together as Peace Corps volunteers in India. Now, 50 years later, they are still working as a team with the American Red Cross.

Nurse Margie started volunteering for the American Red Cross after she retired. After about six months, Marjie was working a flood event in El Paso. She called Bill and said, “Could you help?”

That was six years ago. Since then, the couple has been volunteering together. Bill worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation in El Paso until he retired, but, like his wife, he chose to do try something different with the Red Cross.

The couple learned to drive the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV). ERVs are used to deliver and serve food in disaster areas. They have deployed about four times together as ERV drivers.

“It takes us off the street,” Bill joked. Marjie joined in with, “I like to drive.”

The couple now lives in the San Antonio area. For the latest round of Texas flooding, Red Cross supplies were warehoused in New Braunfels. Local area people were needed to transport materials from the warehouse. The Days started delivering bulk supplies such as clean-up kits and water to service delivery sites.

“It was a good deployment,” Bill said. “We didn’t get stuck in the mud, all the equipment we needed was there, and we saw a lot of Texas we hadn’t seen before.”

“We try to do something to give back,” Marjie continued. “The Red Cross gives us the opportunity to do that.”

Roy and June Bergeron
“I began volunteering with the Red Cross the year before Katrina,” Roy Bergeron stated. “I was watching the news of a hurricane approaching Florida. Having lived at the southern tip of Louisiana, I knew about evacuations. I said, ‘We ought to help those people.’ Then we saw an advertisement asking people to become Red Cross volunteers. I signed up and took all the training I could. Two weeks later, I was sent to Florida.”

June became a Red Cross volunteer the following year, after she retired as an administrative assistant. Bill was an industrial maintenance mechanic and still teaches classes in the Baton Rouge area. They are trained ERV drivers, but their favorite activity is working in Red Cross shelters. Both have important management roles in Red Cross sheltering in Louisiana.

“We have to stay in the office [when events occur nearby],” June relayed. “We love to deploy to be with the clients.”

Roy has deployed about 32 times; June missed a few when she was still working. “We’ve made some good friends while deploying,” June said. They soon will be visiting with volunteers from St. Cloud, Minnesota who they met ten years ago.

Sheltering has changed over the years. “I stayed in shelters a lot as a kid,” Roy remembered. “Even after we were married, living near New Orleans, a hurricane swept the coast. We had to run from our house to my parents’ house. Then the hurricane turned and approached us again. We had to evacuate a second time.”

“There were no snacks or coffee. We had to bring our own food to the shelter,” June continued the story. “They didn’t have cots. We had to sit on the floor on blankets.”

“There’s more to sheltering than in the old days,” Roy summed up.

The Red Cross shelter they managed in Texas was “one big family,” according to June. “The kids played so well together. They didn’t fight. Everyone took care of each other. It was heartwarming; we hated to leave them and they hated for us to leave.”

“Running a shelter is very rewarding,” June concluded. “We try to keep the clients’ spirits up. They just appreciate what we do so much. Sheltering teaches you a lot about people and family.”