Monica Nieto volunteered at the American Red Cross Middletown High School evacuation center for ten days. In addition to helping the people affected by the Rocky Fire, she also helped the many individuals who come in eager to help. During active disaster relief efforts, many residents of the community affected, step up and make themselves available to help in whatever way is needed. It is a silver lining of these horrible disasters: the altruistic nature of the average person springs forward ready for action.
As a fifteen-year resident of Lake County, Monica is particularly passionate about empowering Lake County locals to be able to help during the Rocky Fire response and future disasters. Since joining the relief effort on July 29th, Monica has helped 58 individuals from the local community begin the application process to become full-time Red Cross volunteers. Twenty-five have now completed all the steps and are full-fledged, full-time Red Crossers.
Monica believes that these new volunteers are going to be engaged for the long-term, “These are very outgoing, happy people. They have a really good spirit – always with a smile. They’re willing to help out and go out of their way for someone in need.”
She firmly believes that all the new volunteers who have, over the past week, walked into one of the two Red Cross evacuation centers set up in the Middletown and Kelseyville high schools to sign up, would have done so a long time ago if not for the fact that no one knew how to sign up. To this she adds, “My goal is to build a strong [Red Cross] presence here in Lake, with locals to get involved in their community.”
In the almost two decades she has spent here, Monica has “noticed that Kelseyville and around the lake, we’re a really close-knit community that wants to go out and help. It’s just a matter of getting them engaged and empowered.” This feeds into what she finds most satisfying about being a Red Cross volunteer: the opportunity to not only train people in essential skills such as personal preparedness, and CPR and First Aid, but also to empower them to protect and strengthen their communities. “I believe that all people are intrinsically good and only need to be pointed in the right direction and given access to the right resources in order to be able to give back to their community effectively. The Red Cross gives me the opportunity to do this.”
Monica is excited to focus on growing the Red Cross volunteer presence in Lake County once the Rocky Fire relief effort scales down. Put simply, “I joined the Red Cross to help my community out. We all work together as a team. We all need each other.”