Red Cross disaster relief is not about Rick

By Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross

Rick Graft working flooding relief response, Louisiana. Photo provided by Rick
Rick Graft working flood relief response in Louisiana. Photo provided by Rick

It’s not about me, says Rick Graft when talking about his Red Cross volunteer service. But it kind of is. Because without people like Rick, the Red Cross would have, so-to-speak, no foundation. People like Rick are the tick-tock of all Red Cross disaster relief, from responding to a house fire leaving a family homeless a few blocks away, to flooding of historic volume displacing thousands of people hours away in another state.

After Rick returned from Louisiana, following two weeks of volunteer service for the Red Cross relief effort, he stopped by the regional Red Cross office in Minneapolis to pick-up a new relief worker vest. This one is five years old, he says, and worn out. The ground-in dirt is a badge of good work done again and again (and, do I dare say, again and again?). In Louisiana, he wore the vest while handing meals to people recovering in once flooded neighborhoods, coordinating food truck drivers getting ready for the day’s deliveries, gathering truck route intelligence for updated maps, and packing up a field kitchen that cooked hundreds of meals for distribution to people across dozens of communities.

Household items ready for pick-up after flooding in Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Rick Graft

In Louisiana, while wearing his vest Rick became the Dude, Yard Dog, Route Mapping Spy. He wore it while making a training program for Red Cross food truck drivers. He wore it will looking people in the eye and asking, how are you doing — under the circumstances, and getting most often a reply of, not bad — all things considered, and then he kept the conversation going. People were impressed, he says, that volunteers like him had come from all 50 states. (During the Hurricane Sandy response, Rick wore the same vest, then nearly new, when he, a man from Minnesota Vikings territory, was paired with a partner from Green Bay Packers land. How do you get along, people asked. We’d say we don’t and we’d all laugh.)

I get it. Red Cross disaster relief is not about Rick. It’s about the service. The service, he says, is about giving people a lift in their very bad day.

For me, that’s a true meaning of amazing.

Click here to learn more about how the Red Cross is helping in Louisiana.

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