As a Red Cross volunteer, Lew Savik has seen people at some of the worst times in their lives.
But he hasn’t seen them at their worst.
During the aftermath of hurricanes, landslides, fires, tornadoes and most recently flooding, the Kalispell volunteer witnesses people showing courage, endurance and gratitude.
"Even in a hurting situation, people were grateful," he said. “I’m not seeing the worst of people. I’m helping and working with some really great people.”
In Indiana, where flood waters swept through communities in March, the Red Cross provided families supplies such as shovels, as well as food and water. Savik worked the night shift at a shelter.
“It was just a matter of staying awake all night and making sure everything went smoothly,” he said.
He monitored who came and went, fed late arrivals, lent an ear to people who needed someone to talk to and, when things quieted, he scrubbed the men’s bathroom clean.
"This was a group of disadvantaged people, young, old and between,” he said.
This was Savik’s first time volunteering at a Red Cross shelter but seventh deployment.
He worked in a kitchen after a disaster in Texas, worked at a warehouse and in delivery in Alabama after a slew of tornados, fed people after Sandy, manned a cantina after a Washington landslide, distributed supplies and food after wildfires hit Washington and helped with supplies again in Texas.
"All of them were good deployments,” he said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping. You get a lot of hugs and thank yous.”
Savik drove a Red Cross emergency response vehicle from Helena to New York after Hurricane Sandy.
He saved a message from a thankful woman in Lindenhurst, N.Y., who wrote that his Red Cross van from Montana had the “best hot dogs in town.”
“Thank you to your families for sharing you with us in our time of need,” she wrote. “You lifted our hearts and spirits and I thank you for that. Sandy didn’t take everything.”
During the Sandy recovery, he saw the Montana mystique factor. New Yorkers found the Montana team special, he said.
“We got to know the people by their smiles,” he said.