For Erick Digre, a Pacifica resident and 30-year Red Cross volunteer who was deployed twice during Superstorm Sandy, helping people return to their normal lives and hear their stories after a disaster strikes is an honor. Volunteers like Erick often get to see how the lives of the people they help slowly improve. Recently, Erick received an honor like nothing he could have ever imagined.
As a health services volunteer with an Emergency Medical Technician certification, Erick provided first aid and emotional support to those affected by the storm. During one of his eleven late nights volunteering at a shelter in New Jersey, Erick befriended a young woman in the final stages of pregnancy. He provided emotional support for the woman who would often come into the shelter at night.
“I always endeavor to grab that shift because you are able to talk to people. You hear their stories and get to know them,” said Erick, a park ranger for San Francisco Crystal Spring’s Fish and Game Preserve, who spends his vacations working as a Red Cross volunteer. The day before Erick headed back to the Bay Area, the young woman left without saying goodbye.
“I was very concerned about her safety,” said Erick. Two days later, Erick’s Superstorm Sandy supervisor called him with good news about the woman. She had a baby girl and named her Ericka, in honor of the Red Cross volunteer that helped her put her life back together.
“I never had a child named after me. It’s a once in a lifetime experience!” Erick said. “You don’t think anything like that’s going to happen, you’re just doing the best you can in a situation. It was great.” Although Erick will never meet the woman again he is content knowing how much his help touched her life.
“It was kind of sad – I’ll never get to see the child - but that’s not our mission,” he said. During his two deployments to Sandy, Erick worked at shelters at Rutgers University and Toms River as well as a camp set up by FEMA for first responders, evacuees, and utility personnel in Oceanport dubbed “Camp Freedom.”
“People lost most of everything they had,” Erick said. “We saw hundreds of people, we had elderly people and a two-day old baby.” He said helping people return to their lives and listening to their stories is an honor.
“We get such a privilege to hear these stories,” Erick said. “You are part of people’s lives: we feed, shelter, and give medical aid to everybody, that’s primary, but the opportunity for us to understand what people went through, that’s really important.”