Stan and DiAnna Stanich of Cleveland returned from two weeks of duty for the American Red Cross disaster relief operations in New Jersey last Friday night. Like many other volunteers from the Greater Chattanooga area, they had exciting stories to tell of their first-ever deployment experience with the Red Cross. They were part of the 5,800 volunteers from, all 50 states, who have been assisting the victims of the worst storm in history to hit the East Coast.
For the majority of their deployment, Stan and DiAnna were assigned to follow up on Search and Locate postings on the Red Cross website referred to as Safe and Well. This tremendously important service can be accessed by going to https://safeandwell.communityos.org/. “We spent our time looking for lost people,” DiAnna explained. “Very often after a major disaster, telephone lines are down, and even cell phone towers become inoperative. People can’t get in contact with their friends and loved ones living in the devastated areas.” That’s why the Red Cross created this internet site where people can go to search for family members, who hopefully have registered themselves as being Safe and Well, and have left a brief note for those trying to find them. All persons who enter a Red Cross shelter are entered into the Safe and Well data base, but the many who find temporary housing in motels or private homes may be “lost” for several days.
To locate a loved one living in or near the disaster zone, one need only go to the website and enter the name, and either a phone number or an address of the person they are seeking. When this information is posted, it is immediately assigned to Red Cross volunteers like Stan and DiAnna, who then go personally to the victim’s neighborhood to try and locate them. “Very often neighbors, or local shop keepers, know the people, and where they were planning to go when they evacuated,” Stan explained. “If we found out where they went to church, someone there might know them and where they might be found.” To him, the rewarding part of the work was in the high percentage of their searches that were successful. “It makes you feel so good to put lost people back in touch with loved ones who are worried about them.”
DiAnna was most impressed by the warm and genuine welcome Red Cross volunteers received in the heavily damaged neighborhoods. “When we knocked on doors and the people saw our Red Cross disaster vests, they immediately began thanking us for coming to help them. Some even wanted to give us a big hug to express their gratitude,” she recalled.
There is no doubt Stan and DiAnna will answer the call again the next time the Red Cross assembles a disaster relief operation. DiAnna is retired from her career as an Inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Stan is a retired tool and die maker. They have time on their hands, and compassion in their hearts, and they well represent more than a thousand disaster volunteers of the Red Cross East Tennessee Region.