Exhaustion and trauma were taking their toll on the firefighters, police officers, volunteers and others at Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
That’s where Jim Stumpf, a Red Cross volunteer from Meridian, Idaho, stepped in to do liaison work.
“I worked with the volunteers who were with agencies working on the pile, and I was trying to keep everybody happy,” said Stumpf, who was recognized recently for 45 years of Red Cross volunteer service. “Some of the volunteers were starting to get worn a little thin so the job was talking to them, keeping them happy, exchanging stories and information, trying to relieve them of tension.”
At one of the nation’s darkest moments, Stumpf was there in New York City, helping for more than three weeks.
He also responded to flooding in Louisiana on a deployment, but he spent more of his 45 years as a volunteer teaching first aid. These days he does disaster cycle services, supporting disaster teams on the casework side.
Friends talked him into joining the Red Cross “and I’ve just been working at it ever since,” he said. “It seemed to work out. I was satisfied, and I didn’t make everybody unhappy.”
The “inspiring and encouraging” Red Cross volunteers he’s met along the way have helped him keep going.
“I enjoy doing the work with the Red Cross and helping out where I can, when I can. It’s a gratifying experience,” he said.
Stumpf advised potential volunteers to “jump in and get your feet wet.”
“It’s a good experience, and they’re not going to break your door down to get you to volunteer. You have to wander in and be willing to help,” he said. “Be patient. We don’t have disasters every day, fortunately. It takes time before you deploy.”