Last May, a devastating, EF5 level tornado struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma, wiping out much of the town’s infrastructure and taking 24 lives.
In the midst of this chaos, the American Red Cross joined a number of organizations to answer the emergency, sending volunteers from across the nation to help with tasks like setting up shelters, working with clients and disaster assessment, and organizing long-term recovery for those affected.
These tasks were not easy, and required many dedicated individuals to make it work.
One of these individuals was Sabrina Crowe, who recalls that the Moore, Oklahoma tornado was her first time responding to a disaster through the East Tennessee Region of the American Red Cross.
Needless to say, Sabrina was nervous. She says she flew out to Oklahoma not knowing what to expect. When she arrived, the Red Cross put her to work in a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), where a number of other organizations alongside the Red Cross helped to bring some relief to the tornado victims. Many volunteers were needed to keep the MARC running smoothly, but the volunteers also needed capable supervisors to manage them. That is why soon after her arrival, Sabrina was promoted to manager of “spontaneous volunteers.”
Spontaneous volunteers are workers who are not originally affiliated with the Red Cross, but want to help. Sabrina trained and managed around 30 of these volunteers during her time in Oklahoma, and although she was nervous in the beginning, she says that the promotion gave her more confidence. She says she was proud that her superiors felt she could manage things the “Red Cross” way, and requested to stay an extra week beyond her departure date.
She fondly recalls that she had bought new shoes just before going to Oklahoma, but when she returned the soles of her shoes were almost gone from the amount of time she spent walking from station to station and checking up on her volunteers.
Still, Sabrina felt uncertain. Even as she was managing volunteers in the midst of a huge disaster, she wasn’t sure she was making an impact. “When I got back to Tennessee,” she says, “I really had that in the back of my mind…Did I really make a difference?”
But when Sabrina found out that she had inspired many of the spontaneous volunteers to officially join the Red Cross, that question was answered.
She says one of her most vivid memories of the disaster was not the devastation, but rather the outpouring of local volunteers who came out to help. These were people who had also lost everything in the storms but were still eager to assist their community. She says that the experience of working with such selfless individuals was very powerful for her, and she is happy to report that she knows of at least three of those volunteers who are still working alongside the Red Cross today.
Likewise, Sabrina is still a diligent Red Cross worker. She says that she just returned from Meridian, Mississippi, where she was supervisor lead over Client Services. “I will stay with the Red Cross until the day they put me in the ground,” she says, adding, “I hope there’s more people that will join the American Red Cross….[in this organization] you become family with everyone.”