My Red Cross Story: Tessa Shumway, Fighting the Fire

Wildfires in the West
The fact that a volunteer like me is able to make a difference gives everything we do so much meaning. -Tessa Shumway

During rampant wildfires this past summer, the American Red Cross has worked to assist those in need throughout the Rocky Mountain range, from New Mexico to Montana.

Twelve Red Cross shelters were opened in Colorado, Utah and Montana. Hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers provided displaced residents with a safe place to stay, food to eat and emotional support. More than 11,000 relief items, such as rakes, shovels, gloves and coolers were handed out to people returning to their homes.

Although the Minn-Kota Region was not severely impacted by fires this summer, a long-time Red Cross volunteer living in North Dakota, Tessa Shumway, gave her time and volunteered to respond to fires in Montana, a state that she previously called home.

“The wildfires were affecting the county in Montana where I used to live and I knew most of the responders and government officials from volunteering with the Red Cross in the past,” Shumway said. “It also gave me the opportunity to show the community what the Red Cross does best, as they had never had a large scale disaster in the area before.”

As a volunteer this summer in Montana, Shumway served as a Government Communications Liaison, providing a link between government agencies and clients the Red Cross was serving. Her duties ranged from relaying information from ranchers and firefighters to law enforcement officials to overseeing Red Cross mass-feeding operations.

“My primary responsibility was to make the lines of communication less complex,” Shumway said. “That process enabled people to gather and share information as smoothly as possible, and also assess the operation efforts for the Red Cross.”

For thirteen days, Shumway led Red Cross efforts to feed members of the communities from citizens to government officials. While on site, Shumway and other Red Cross volunteers served 858 meals, working from two restaurants that shared one generator to keep emergency operations open.

“With another non-profit partnering with the Red Cross we were able to serve the community,” Shumway said. “The people told me how much they appreciated an organization like the Red Cross for living up to its word and being there for them when they needed help.”

The area in Montana where Shumway was stationed was without power and other necessities for multiple weeks, and the delivery of materials was difficult due to the path of the wildfires.

“The area definitely needed extra help,” Shumway said. “The fact that a volunteer like me is able to make a difference gives everything we do so much meaning.”

Shumway, a current resident of Golden Valley County in southwestern North Dakota, has served as a Red Cross volunteer for 14 years, including 12 years in Wyoming and Montana, and the past two in North Dakota.

For more information on becoming a volunteer or taking courses in disaster assistance visit www.redcross.org.