Red Cross volunteer Sharon Collin is a natural organizer. A former movie theater manager, accountant and school teacher, she’s at ease while directing the flow of traffic that comes through the North Commons Recreation Center where the Red Cross shelter is housed.
Sharon is the night manager at this Red Cross shelter where 43 residents are attempting to rebuild their lives after the May 22 tornado destroyed blocks of North Minneapolis. One week into working at this shelter and Sharon has her routine down.
“I’m calling it organized disorder,” she says. “People are welcomed to come and go as they like as we try to create normalcy in the abnormal.”
Nearly all at once, Sharon sends someone to the snack room, finds a caseworker for another shelter resident, and hugs three kids in between the two tasks, promising one that she’ll tuck her in later.
“We have a lights out time,” she explained. “But one man works nights. Other people are night owls. I offer to fix snacks and hot meals during the night as people come through.”
While Sharon has responsibilities and organizational tasks to ensure that the shelter runs smoothly, she says she spends most of her time listening.
“No one wants to be here,” she said. “I listen to where they’re at, answer Red Cross questions, and match them up with services so they can move forward.”
Sharon travelled from Cumberland Foreside, Maine, to be the shelter night manager. She’s volunteered for the Red Cross in various ways for the past 6 years: working on disaster teams, supporting call centers and filling in any way she can, but her favorite assignment is working at shelters.
“People often enter a shelter at their lowest point. Red Cross volunteers enter a shelter, fresh with adrenaline and ready to help. Sometimes that’s really what people need. Someone to support them and provide the energy they don’t have.”
(Reporting and photos by Amanda Mark, Red Cross Volunteer)