This week on the eleventh anniversary of Louisiana’s Hurricane Katrina, American Red Cross volunteer Pat Eger is in Baton Rouge doing the one thing she did back then in New Orleans, helping others recover after a major disaster.
When a disaster hits somewhere in the U.S. or around the country, The Red Cross can usually count on Pat Eger to be one of the first responders.
“11 years ago I drove a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle to New Orleans to help residents recover from Hurricane Katrina. I'm back in Louisiana again in a different position, casework, but with the same resolve, to help people in need,” she says. “The needs of those affected are the same: they need a safe place to live while they begin the rebuilding process, they need food to eat so they have the energy to do what needs to be done, and they need information and a shoulder to lean on as they move forward. The Red Cross offers all of these,” she says.
For 19 years now Pat Eger has been a volunteer for the Red Cross. Most of her friends and colleagues know that when there’s a need she’s always one of the first to respond.
Beth Boyd, Regional Disaster Officer for Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso knows firsthand what kind of leader Pat Eger is. “Pat is a humanitarian through and through. She will do whatever it takes to meet the needs of people who are affected by disasters,” she says.
“Pat takes her responsibilities with the Red Cross very seriously. She is a true volunteer partner for Cheryl Bender, the Disaster Program Manager, and shares equally in the responsibilities of running Southern Arizona’s disaster program. Such a big role can be daunting to some, but Pat tackles it without hesitation. You will never hear Pat say that she is just a volunteer, because she knows that her role is critical to delivering the mission of the Red Cross,” she says.
Pat has traveled all over the country and has deployed over 35 times in lots of different capacities for the Red Cross. In every one of those cases she has found one constant.
“I'm always amazed by the outpouring of support that comes not only from neighbor helping neighbor, but also from complete strangers willing to give up their time, or leave their home, or send money to help complete strangers. It’s part of the fabric that binds us as Americans,” she says.
Asked if she has any particular memories or stories of any one deployment, Pat describes what she and other volunteers have or will experience in a disaster.
“I have lots of little stories and happenings on every deployment. None make for good press, but when put together they tell the story of a group of good-hearted people working together for others. Sometimes they cry because it can become overwhelming and sometimes they cry for joy because they see the results of their hard work,” she says.
Pat Eger has likely cried for both those reasons while working to help in a disaster, and she encourages others not to be afraid to give it a try.
“What do you have to lose? Maybe a little time and effort, but I can say this, when I get home, whether after a local fire, or a smoke alarm install, or teaching kids about fire safety using a pillowcase as a teaching tool, or after 3 weeks on a large relief operation, I feel good about what I have accomplished."