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Volunteer Deployment Story from the Wildfires in California

I am not the type of person that can sit home and watch a disaster on my television.

“The Red Cross is a boots on the ground sort of organization; it’s in my blood, so this type of volunteer work was right up my alley,” said Carolyn Angeline, of Topsham, a two and a half year volunteer with the organization.

Within minutes of walking into the San Bernardino County Red Cross office, Carolyn was driving an Emergency Response Vehicle into the mountains of California to help those being evacuated by the Blue Cut wildfires.  

For about two weeks, Carolyn was stationed in California as part of the Red Cross disaster response team tasked with helping communities impacted by the raging wildfire that destroyed approximately 100 homes and caused thousands to evacuate.  The California Blue Cut wildfire burned more than 37,000 acres of land; equivalent to the size of the city of Portland.

When Carolyn is not volunteering with the Red Cross she is a mobile crisis caseworker for Sweetser Brunswick, so is well equipped at helping those through a crisis situation.  “I am not the type of person that can sit home and watch a disaster on my television. I need to get out there and do something,” said Carolyn, so it was no surprise that within days of the wildfire, she was one of two Red Crossers from Maine on an airplane headed to the West Coast.

Carolyn was part of a team that assisted evacuees identify shelters close to a residence and that were out harm’s way and she assisted in providing individuals with hot meals, water and supplies.  As the response efforts increased, Carolyn was dispatched in a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle with a 28 foot truck following behind filled with supplies to be distributed to communities throughout the San Bernardino County.  “When we pulled up to an area in our rescue vehicles, people would come up immediately to us - parking haphazardly all around us; we were helping families, children, adults, teenagers and older adults,” said Carolyn.

Over the course of the two weeks, Carolyn met with dozens of individuals who had lost everything in the wildfire and were seeking assistance from the Red Cross. Sometimes sitting with individuals for hours, Carolyn helped them develop a recovery plan, identify immediate and long term needs, as well as provide a shoulder to cry on.  “When you look into the eyes of someone who has lost everything and is struggling and suffering, it’s impossible not to respond. It’s just not possible. That’s what keeps me going,” said Carolyn.

Asked about her experience in California and whether she would deploy again to another disaster, Carolyn responded, “It has reaffirmed what I have always known, that I want to respond when people are in need.”

“There’s so much you can do. I would tell anybody, give it a try.  You can’t imagine what you will be able to do until you do it,” said Carolyn about her experiencing with the Red Cross in Maine.  To learn more about volunteering, log onto www.MaineRedCross.org.