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.

In pictures : Red Cross responds to flooding in Louisiana

Hundreds of Red Cross workers are operating shelters and providing meals, relief supplies and health and mental health services in four southern states where thousands of people have been forced from their homes by floodwaters, many leaving with little but the clothes on their backs. More than 380 people spent Sunday, March 13, in 30 Red Cross and community shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.

Volunteers like Ethel Payne of Monroe, Louisiana, help provide comfort for families staying at Red Cross shelters. Volunteers often come prepared with toys and activities for children at shelters, which helps make them feel safe during difficult times. Flooding_LouisianaCima1








When Terina Smith, Michael Stevenson and their three small children were rescued from floodwaters in Monroe, Louisiana, they found safety at a Red Cross shelter. Volunteer Ethel Payne has helped provide comfort and lifted their spirits during their time at the shelter. Flooding_LouisianaCima2








Clifton Winsor has lived by himself in his Rayville, Louisiana, home since his wife’s passing in 2013. At 87, he’s lived through a lot, but this is the first time his home has flooded. Now, he looks toward the future. “At my age, it’s hard enough to think about what happens next after something like this,” he says with tears in his eyes, “but facing it alone without my wife makes it even harder.”Flooding_LouisianaCima5








The American Red Cross delivered water and snacks to neighborhoods affected by flooding in Rayville, Louisiana. For many residents, it was the first day they were able to get back into their homes to assess damage.








When Carroll Taylor saw the water rising in the backyard of her West Monroe, Louisiana, home, she knew she had to leave. When she came back the next night, she found about 6 inches of water had entered her living room. When the Red Cross came through her neighborhood, she had spent two days pulling carpeting out of her home, bleaching her walls and cleaning the concrete floor below. “I was mad that this happened to me at first, but then I realized I was lucky,” she says. “I didn’t get it as bad as others – and I won’t need as much as others – but I’m so grateful that the Red Cross is here to help those who will need it.”Flooding_LouisianaCima7








You can help people affected by disasters, such as the current flooding and countless other crises, by making a donation to Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. To learn more about the Red Cross relief effort across flood-affected areas, click here.

Photos by Daniel Cima. Captions by April Phillips.

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