An American Red Cross volunteer from Louisiana has been honored with a prestigious award by the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
Dee Binder, a Mandeville resident who has served with the Red Cross since 2004, has been recognized as the Don Hampton Volunteer of the Year for “exhibiting outstanding and unique volunteer service within the VOAD movement” in the past year.
Binder’s vision and leadership in disaster planning was apparent during Louisiana’s August 2016 flood as the feeding plan she co-wrote with volunteer Amy Stoodt was implemented. Coordinating with Louisiana emergency officials, faith-based and other community partners and volunteers, Dee and her team were able to help tens of thousands. The Red Cross response included more than 79,800 overnight shelter stays and more than 1.3 million meals and snacks served – efforts Binder directly influenced.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of disaster response and recovery in this nation. Dee Binder exemplifies the impact that one volunteer can have on thousands of survivors,” said Gregory A. Forrester, president and CEO of NVOAD. “Dee planned for a catastrophic event, found other team members, developed additional resources, and then when disaster struck, she launched the plan. Given resources and the ability to follow her heart, Dee showed that every volunteer can make an exponential difference in the recovery of a community.”
NVOAD – an association of faith-, community-, and other non-government organizations – seeks to build community resiliency throughout the disaster cycle. The prestigious award was presented in Houston at its 25th annual conference last month that included workshops and service projects, as well as the Awards Dinner celebrating State VOAD of the Year, National Member of the Year, and Partner of the Year.
Binder has served thousands of hours in her 13 years of service with the Red Cross in Louisiana. Her skills as a planner and organizer moved her beyond daily disaster response at a community-based level to a leadership position for the state as the mass care (shelter and feeding) leader. Through the process, she identified and developed a dedicated team of volunteers, inside the Red Cross and with partners like the Southern Baptists, who agreed to serve as points of contact during disaster response.
“The volunteer efforts, partner collaboration and leadership demonstrated by Dee Binder during the flooding in Louisiana and many other disasters truly reflect the hard work and spirit of the voluntary sector,” said April Wood, senior director of the American Red Cross Community Mobilization and Partnerships program. “She represents the true meaning of this peer-nominated award.”
The August 2016 floods had no advance warning and contrast starkly with most emergency shelter plans, using hurricanes as a baseline, that allow for 120+ hours leading up to an event.
“This is where Dee’s detailed planning, passionate supervision and intimate knowledge of partners’ skills and strengths came to the forefront,” said Joshua Joachim, chief executive of the Red Cross in Louisiana.
“Thanks to that planning, Dee and her team were able to provide a hot meal to neighbors in need from the very first one served – for more than 40,000 hot meals a day during the peak of the flood response.”
And when other disaster response partners were able to begin their operations, Binder and her team coordinated through the daily FEMA-led statewide feeding task force call and assimilated their feeding routes into those already in place to ensure maximum reach with little duplication. Binder’s efforts in mass care ran through November, in a disaster response that became the largest the Red Cross has responded to since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“When Dee’s plans were rerouted due to inaccessible areas, Dee and the Red Cross feeding team worked with partners who were able to engage quickly to help set up feeding drops for hundreds of neighbors forced from their homes because of rising floodwaters,” Joachim said. “She was tireless, she was compassionate, and she was driven by a desire to leave no one hungry.”
Binder recognizes that all sectors of a community’s disaster response must work together to build a more resilient, united front. She credits building a team of volunteers who bring skill sets that put “a backbone to my knowledge.”
“Over the years, I have worked with amazing people, who like us all, have chosen to become part of something greater than ourselves – uniting during disasters to show those suffering that they are not alone, giving them hope that things will get better,” Binder said at the national awards ceremony in Houston.