When I met David Blunt, he was sitting in a fold-up chair with a smile on his face at the MARC in Arnold, Mo. A nine-hour drive from his home in Mobile, Ala., Blunt is an American Red Cross caseworker who traveled to Missouri to fulfill his own personal mission.
“We all have direction,” Blunt told me as he sat in the warm, muggy gym at Arnold’s First Baptist Church, fiddling with a stuffed animal destined to bring comfort and a smile to a child’s face. “The Red Cross gives me the opportunity to help out… put a band aid on their soul.”
Blunt tells me he first became interested in the Red Cross last September when he was trying use his mobile kitchen to help out during a disaster in New Orleans, La. He typically used the kitchen to fill the bellies of people who are homeless in Mobile. He says without the Red Cross, he wouldn’t have access to the resources to help those who need it during a disaster.
“It makes me feel good to put a smile on their face and food in their stomach,” Blunt told me. But this time, Blunt didn’t bring his mobile kitchen with him. Instead, he offered up his time to be a caseworker to help Missourians at the MARC, a Multi-Agency Resource Center where the Red Cross and other relief organizations and government agencies work to provide resources and information to those in need.
“Seeing how the people are suffering, their needs are great,” Blunt told me. When I spoke with him, it was his second time volunteering at a MARC that week in Arnold. “The Red Cross can only help so much. The MARC can help more.”
Blunt, who was on first deployment, was one of about twenty Red Cross volunteers and staff at the MARC last Thursday. Many of them traveled far to help those in need here. That included Mary Brod of Richmond, Va. After she retired last year, she wanted to work in the community and started volunteering with the Red Cross last September. Like many of the out-of-town volunteers, she spent nearly two weeks in Eastern Missouri helping flood victims. Brod told me services like the MARC can provide a critical service.
“Just the fact that this is one stop shopping is great,” Brod said as she looked around at the other groups and agencies there to provide assistance.
It’s important to note that Red Cross caseworkers pick up where the Red Cross’ Disaster Action Team leaves off. Caseworkers can work closely with families for weeks or months to make sure they have what they need to fully recover. But the needs of those impacted by disasters goes beyond help for repairs, fresh water, and a dry place to stay. What many don’t think about is the psychological impact of disaster-related events. It’s why the Red Cross provided mental health services at the MARC to support residents impacted by the floods.
“It’s not a need people seek out,” casework supervisor Hannah Bruce said. “But it’s a natural need.”
As for Blunt and Brod, they’re now back at their homes on opposite ends of the country. But the work they started in Arnold this month will leave a lasting impact on the families and the community they volunteered to help.
“I enjoy doing what I was able to do,” Blunt told me. “But I wish I could do more for them.”
The Red Cross depends on volunteers to turn compassion into action and fulfill its mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering during times of crisis. Volunteers make up 94 percent of the American Red Cross’ workforce. If you would like to learn about the volunteer opportunities in the St. Louis area, go to redcross.org/volunteer. If you would like to support disaster relief efforts in Missouri and Illinois, donate online at redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.