Red Cross Shelter Night Shift Adds Perspective

By Kami Buccellato, RN, Red Cross Volunteer

When needed after a disaster a Red Cross shelter is a safe & warm place where displaced people can get a cup of coffee and also meet with health services volunteers. Photo Cathryn Kennedy/American Red Cross

After a tornado hit the town I was born in, destroying half the city a couple years ago, I decided to become a Red Cross volunteer disaster responder.

Today I serve as a disaster health services responder for the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter. Most often I work via telephone, helping people rebuild their lives, starting with replacing everyday basics such as eyeglasses, medications, or medical equipment that were lost in a home fire.

Disaster health services team members also provide assistance in Red Cross shelters. For example, this past winter an apartment building fire in Bloomington, Minnesota, left several dozen people without safe and warm place to stay. So, the Red Cross opened a shelter and I signed up for a night shift.

This was my first time as a health services volunteer working in-person with people after disaster. The moment I walked into the Bloomington shelter I felt welcomed. I received a tour around the facility, updated on possible clients, introduced to the families that were staying there, shown where the medical supplies were kept, and given a list of resources for questions or concerns.

It was a calm night and my shift went quickly. I got to meet new people, see the operations of a shelter and how vital all volunteers are in running and providing services at a shelter. My favorite part was getting an extra blanket for a little girl so she could get some rest and stay warm from the cold.

Another experience was just listening to families talk about their recovery steps and the search for a new place to live. I did not realize how much the fire impacted people until I heard that families were searching for ground level apartments to live in because they never wanted out to have to jump out a third floor apartment window during winter.

My first on-scene experience was great. What I loved most, and made the work all worthwhile, was an email card later sent by a family expressing its sincere thanks to Red Cross Volunteers.

Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.

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