Living in an emergency relief shelter is not easy. Days can be filled with uncertainty, and the "next-steps" after a disaster may appear daunting. American Red Cross volunteers try to alleviate as much confusion and angst as possible for each and every person who takes up residence in their relief shelter.
Kirk Douglas, a Red Cross volunteer, is one of the people that makes a difference every time he steps into the River Center Relief Shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Kirk—who deployed from nearly 1,500 miles away in North Dakota—serves as the Assistant Shelter Manager for the biggest shelter operating in Louisiana. At one point, the River Center Relief Shelter housed approximately 1,600 people.
Each one of the residents who makes the River Center their temporary home have their own unique stories, experiences, likes and dislikes. Although he may interact with hundreds of people every day, Kirk does not lose sight of the importance of treating each individual like they are the only person in the shelter.
One of the people he is accustomed to seeing daily is an elderly woman named Betty. "Everyday day, I give her a hug," said Kirk. "We speak to each other for a little bit each day and I check on her to see how she is doing and how her day is going."
In addition to befriending Betty, he also makes sure she is on the road to recovery. "I check to make sure she is making the connections she needs to recover after this disaster." One of the connections Kirk has helped Betty make is with FEMA.
While Betty's FEMA application has not yet been approved, she is not alone in the journey ahead. Red Cross volunteers like Kirk help make each resident feel like they are the only ones in the shelter. These personal interactions and individualized care is what makes Red Cross volunteers special.