When a disaster hits, American Red Cross volunteers Betty Lou and Fred Hicks do not leave home. Instead, they take it with them.
When the couple, both former librarians, retired about 15 years ago, they opted for wheels instead of planting roots. The Hicks decided they would live in a 37-foot recreational vehicle that has all the comforts of home — with one notable exception. They could take their home with them whenever they traveled. At the same time, Betty Lou and Fred also wanted to do something together. That’s when Fred decided to join the Red Cross with his wife, who had already been a volunteer for 20 years.
“It’s something in retirement that we could both be involved with,” Betty Lou said. “We can travel anyplace in our RV and serve the Red Cross. That’s what we wanted to be able to do.”
The Hicks call McAllen, Texas, located in the Rio Grande Valley, their home base. Betty Lou, 76, and Fred, 78, are members of a club of RV owners who call their members “Escapees.” They are also what is known in Red Cross circles as “DOVES,” Disaster Operation Volunteer Escapees. As a pair of former librarians, a profession known for its organizational abilities and attention to detail, both are well suited for service in logistics roles. They are also very flexible when it comes to how and when they respond to often-changing emergency responses.
For example, during the historic flooding that engulfed most of the state in late August, Betty Lou served as the Red Cross disaster response’s assistant director for logistics while Fred worked as headquarters facilities manager. They had initially responded to flooding in South Texas, the product of a tropical depression that swept into the state from Mexico. But almost immediately, a “1-in-1,000-year” rainstorm struck North Texas. Suddenly, their job got much bigger as they found themselves in statewide disaster response.
“I was told that the whole DR got rolled into one big thing and now I am handling logistics for North Texas and the whole state, as well,” Betty Lou said. “It was like ‘oh my,’ and I had so many people calling and emailing me.”
“There’s a lot to keep track of,” Fred added. “My responsibility mainly is to keep our 77 (regional) shelters up-to-date on their surveys and we are constantly bringing in new shelters with signed facility use agreements.”
“We’ve done this before where we’ve started out on something small and all of a sudden, we are bigger,” Betty Lou said. “It’s something you have to be very organized to do.
“That’s why people look at us and say, ‘well, they are librarians.’”
When you are a Red Cross couple on-the-go, you never know where you might be at any time in place. Instead of taking a long-planned trip in their RV to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in the 2017, the Hicks cancelled those plans so they could spend 64 days responding to Hurricane Harvey, first 15 days in Houston and then the remaining time in their RV in Corpus Christi. This year, for their 45thanniversary, they are responding to the Texas floods.
“I guess that’s just how we do it. We will celebrate with the Red Cross, one way or another,” Betty Lou said.
“The Red Cross is a great thing for a couple to get into,” she added. “It’s a great way to live.”
Story by David Guth
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or follow us on Twitter at @RedCross.