Dino Ingram is a Red Cross volunteer and contributing writer.
Shelley Bulkley is fifty-seven and a retiree from the Federal Aviation Administration where she served as a financial systems analyst. Now that she’s got time on her hands, she indulges her passion for finding deals. She loves antiquing, scouring flea markets and getting bargains at garage sales. She’s been to Canton, Texas to visit the country’s largest flea market hosting more than six-thousand vendors and is planning a road trip with her friends to go to the 100-mile yard sale in Tennessee. Shelley doesn’t just limit her travels to bargain hunting. She’s also a Red Cross volunteer, serving since May of 2012, who made her first national deployment to Moore, Oklahoma.
Shelley got the Red Cross call on the day the tornado hit. Her first task was to get to the chapter office that evening to start the pre-deployment process. She completed the requisite paperwork and was assigned as a case worker, based on her training and qualifications for deployment. After two days of preparation, packing and paperwork, she hit the road with three other volunteers, heading for Moore, geared up for a three week tour. She told me that this particular deployment was close to her heart. In March of 2011 she’d relocated to Topeka, from Mustang, Oklahoma, not that far removed from Moore.
When they arrived the Red Cross was still organizing the response to the disaster. She described her thoughts at that time. “My initial reaction was sadness as we drove into the area, seeing the utter devastation that had occurred. I was amazed that more people were not injured or killed.” That wasn’t the only thing that left an impression on her. “I was amazed at the controlled chaos that was being managed just three days after the tornado. It was very clear that the Red Cross has monumental experience in handling these events…The professionalism and compassion was impressive.”
She really proved her worth in Moore. Her first job on site was that of a Client Caseworker, being assigned to one of the shelters where she’d gather client information and get people connected with the resources they needed. After a couple days Shelley was reassigned to the Client Assistance System (CAS) team, entering client information in to the automated system and performing electronic case review. Being familiar with the system, she was able to train new volunteers on how to use it. In addition, she handled calls from the field, from both clients and volunteers, advising them of their case status. In her three weeks on site the CAS team that she was on, entered more that four-thousand cases.
This article would not be complete without some retrospective. Red Cross deployments cause you to grow. Shelley was able to meet people from every corner of the United States. She describes them as being some of the most compassionate and hardworking people she’s ever met. She also added this:
“What I take away from this experience most is the understanding of how important Red Cross is. The job they do is incredible. Some of these volunteers have been on 50, 60 and 70 deployments.”
She related one particular story that touched her the most. She took a call from a single mother looking for assistance. This was FIVE days after the tornado. She and her kids were trying to make it on their own after losing their home. Shelley could hear the pain in the woman’s voice and also experience her overwhelming gratitude that the Red Cross was there to help her. As Shelley states it, “I just felt so inadequate, but I know that she was going to get the help she needed to get a start at recovery. It was humbling.”
Shelley truly believes that she received so much more than she gave, and she looks forward to her next deployment. She has some advice for those considering a deployment opportunity: Be FLEXIBLE! “You may be deployed for one assignment, and get another when you get there, because the need changes daily.”
The impact of her time in Moore is something that she’ll carry with her forever. She’s looking forward to taking the skills that she’s learned and applying them even more effectively on her next deployment.
Shelley, thank you for being a part of the Red Cross and using your time, treasure and talent to help others in need.