Since its formation two years ago, the Antelope Valley Chapter’s Disaster Action Team (DAT) has become a welcome site to local residents displaced by disasters, as well as first responders.
Since July 2010, the DAT team - a group of nine Red Cross disaster-trained volunteers and 27 trainees - has responded to 70 calls for disaster assistance in Palmdale, Lancaster and other Antelope Valley cities. Volunteers arrive on the scene primarily after home fires but have also responded to a building collapse and two flash floods. Team members have helped 304 residents with the recovery process, providing approximately $50,000 in Red Cross assistance.
The Antelope Valley team can be on-scene at a call within two hours, offering the support services available from the American Red Cross – blankets, food, “comfort kits,” as well as support and comfort supplies for children.
When Antelope Valley Red Cross Chapter’s Executive Director Jeff Baumgartner came on board in 2010, he was a man with a mission to provide more immediate Red Cross assistance to those in need, and advocated for the creation of the team. Now, two years later, the chapter responds to about one DAT call a week and provides on-going support for victims through their recovery.
The members are under the capable direction of experienced volunteer Carla Kabaniec, team leader and shelter supervisor.
“Our goal is to make sure that the family can move forward,” said Kabaniec. “When you’ve lost your home, sometimes this is all you have to hold on to,” says Kabaniec, who is speaking about one of the Teddy Bears that Red Cross volunteers provide to frightened children.”
Kabaniec says: “ We make sure our clients know that we will take care of them right now, whether they have insurance or not. We also teach them how to get the resources they need in the future.”
Kabaniec dates her interest in and commitment to the Red Cross back to a chance encounter.
“It was just after Hurricane Katrina, and I was riding in a van with a guy wearing a Red Cross jacket,” Kabaniec explains. “I asked him what he did, and he told me that he was a Red Cross volunteer on his way to help out in Louisiana. I always wanted to focus my retirement years on helping out in national disasters. When I retired from years of government service in March, 2009, working most recently in recreation services at Edwards Air Force base, I drove to the local Red Cross chapter and applied.”
Since joining the DAT team in 2010, Kabaniec has helped at two notable Southland fires, Crown Valley and Acton, a train derailment and a deployment to Alabama in the aftermath of a storm of 62 tornados that killed 253 people and left many stranded and desperate for the Red Cross’s help.
“One of the advantages of DAT volunteers in the Antelope Valley is that if I respond to a call, you remember me, because it’s a familiar voice,” explains Kabaniec. “It took time to build up trust and community exposure. We have a strong team now and are continuing to build. We’re also looking for more volunteers to help in the sheltering and client services areas.”
The Antelope Valley Chapter began serving the community in 1943. The area covered by their efforts includes 40% of Los Angeles County and half of Kern County. Volunteers at the chapter are trained in CPR and first aid and are on call 24/7. Every month the team gathers at the chapter to call each client whose file is open and to assess that they are getting the full range of Red Cross support.
For more information about becoming a Red Cross disaster volunteer, please visit www.RedcrossLA.org/volunteers. To learn more about becoming a member of Antelope Valley’s DAT team or volunteer at the chapter, call (661) 267-0650.