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Volunteering through Virtual Deployment Program

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Sitting in her home office, Kristen Simas is looking out a window at the Bridgton, Maine forest answering phone calls from people who had lost everything in Hurricane Matthew.  Over the course of six weeks, she spoke with and helped dozens of families from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Florida through an American Red Cross program, called “virtual deployment.”

Thanks to advances in technology, the “virtual deployment” program allows volunteers from across the country to assist in large scale disasters from home, supplementing the work done by caseworkers on the ground by providing assistance to displaced families over the phone and through email. In Maine, “I am answering the phone and helping people in other states who need immediate assistance. Whether it is assisting those with financial support, finding a shelter, obtaining cleaning supplies, securing medication refills or finding housing options, I am on the phone to help, ” said Kristen, who has been a volunteer with the Red Cross in Maine since July of 2016.

During her most recent virtual deployment in response to Hurricane Matthew, Kristen received a phone call from a young woman from South Carolina who was extremely distraught.  Not only did Hurricane Matthew significantly damage her home but she missed an important doctor’s appointment where she was hoping to receive an “official” diagnosis of an existing medical condition that was impacting her health.  Kristen, who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for thirteen years, sensed the woman needed more than just financial or shelter assistance, so Kristen spent an hour on the phone listening to this woman’s story.  “I knew she needed to talk with someone and I hope that in some small way, just be listening, I was able to help ease her pain and suffering.”

In addition, Kristen has been part of the Red Cross Disaster Response Action Team assigned to follow up with individuals who have been affected by a disaster within the State of Maine.  If the Red Cross is called to assist with a disaster, whether it is a small kitchen fire or a home fire that destroys an entire residence, the organization follows up with those individuals who are impacted. “One day, I could be on the phone with someone from Presque Isle and the next day, I could be helping someone cope with a home fire in Kennebunk. I am so thankful for the opportunity to help those who have been affected by some type of disaster, whether they are from Maine or elsewhere.”

“Every call has a story and I’m there to listen and help.”

If you are interested in learning more about “virtual deployment” or becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross in Maine, visit our website at www.MaineRedCross.org and click on “volunteer.”