After their retirement in 2015, Kathy and Bob Kniest wanted to volunteer somewhere together. They selected the Red Cross. In late 2015, the couple completed their Red Cross disaster training courses and officially became Disaster Services volunteers. On Jan. 28, 2016, they had their first opportunity to volunteer at a multi-unit Santa Clarita apartment fire, whichdisplaced eight adults and four children.
When they arrived at the scene with the other members of the Disaster Action Team (DAT), Kathy saw piles of charred furniture on the lawn and the burned contents of garages in the alley. The fire chief met with the Red Cross team leader and briefed him on the fire. After that, Bob and Kathy went with different Red Cross members to meet with displaced families. Bob interviewed the resident where the fire had started. Kathy, a retired mental health professional, served as a Disaster Mental Health Services volunteer at that incident. She worked with an experienced team member talking with clients, including a woman who was devastated at the loss of her two cats.
“When we distributed blankets and comfort kits to the families and told them the Red Cross would pay for them to stay in motels, they were so appreciative,” said Kathy. “It was a good opportunity for my husband and me to see what the Red Cross does first hand and how the organization affects lives. Although it was a tragic sudden event, the Red Cross DAT team was able to provide an organized, timely, compassionate response. My husband and I are both very proud to be volunteers for the Red Cross.”
Less than a week later, on Feb. 4, Kathy went on a second disaster call at a multi-home condo fire in Newhall. Kathy and the rest of the Red Cross team assisted seven clients that day.
Jon Brown, Red Cross Disaster Program Manager, Red Cross Los Angeles Region, said of his new volunteers: “Kathy and Bob have life experience, availability and a commitment to our Red Cross mission. They are ideal Red Cross volunteers and will be a valuable asset to the Red Cross for years to come.”