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.

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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.

Red Cross volunteer returns home after two-week deployment to Louisiana

Red Cross volunteer Dave Snetsinger (right) serving food at the River Center shelter in Baton Rouge, LA. Photo courtesy of Dave Snetsinger.

Dave Snetsinger, of Naytahwaush, Minnesota, returned home on September 6 after a two-week deployment assisting with flood recovery in southern Louisiana.

Snetsinger was stationed at the Baton Rouge River Center and was one of eight Red Cross volunteers from the Northern Minnesota Chapter.

The volunteers focused on the immediate needs. The group mostly worked in shelters, ensuring displaced people had adequate housing. Other volunteers helped feed people and focused on medical needs. As a part the feeding group, Snetsinger worked 12-hour shifts that started at 7 a.m. On August 28, he helped serve lunch for 900 shelter residents.

Snetsinger, a White Earth enrollee, has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than 20 years, and now that he’s retired he will continue to volunteer to go out on national disasters to help others. Over the years as a local volunteer firefighter, he has responded to home fires throughout Mahnomen County and on tribal lands.

The northern office of the American Red Cross will be starting a volunteer recruitment drive in your area and are looking for people willing to help those who are displaced locally due to emergencies. With training and experience a Red Cross Volunteer can be deployed throughout the country to help. All training is free and much of it is online. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer or have questions, please contact Tony Guerra at (218) 722-0071 or tony.guerra@redcross.org.

Volunteers are the heart of the Red Cross. Nearly 4,000 volunteers support the Red Cross in Minnesota. They contribute a varying number of hours – from very infrequently to nearly full-time. Volunteers are needed for a variety of response roles, including those who respond in-person, those who coordinate efforts behind-the-scenes, those who provide their medical expertise, those who provide their mental health expertise, and those who provide their public affairs expertise.

This story originally appeared in Anishinaabeg Today, the monthly chronicle of the White Earth Nation, and is published on this blog with permission. Click here to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer.