Challenges faced when responding to a fire won’t keep Jim Schulte, a member of the chapter’s Board of Directors, from going out on another disaster call as part of the board’s Pass the Vest Program.
“I’ll keep it (the vest),” Schulte said Tuesday after responding to a fire in Osage County early Monday morning only to arrive at the scene as the volunteers were finished meeting with clients. “There is more to be learned and to see.
“Since I didn’t get there until they were done, I’d really like to be there when they have their interaction with the family who had the fire loss. I want to see just what questions we ask and what we offer. I want to watch them and see what they are trained to do.”
Kent Trimble, the board chair, implemented the program. Trimble’s idea is to have every board member get a first-hand look at what volunteers do by responding to a disaster at least once during their term. A board member who has the vest can be notified when the chapter is called for assistance. The vest holder then has the option to accept or decline.
Schulte, who lives in New Bloomfield, accepted Monday when chapter Disaster Specialist Phillip Iman called at 2:30 a.m. to inform him there was a fire in the Westphalia-Freeburg area.
He got ready, took off in his truck and stopped in Jefferson City to buy two large coffees to help him stay awake.
Schulte did not have the exact address and tried calling one of the responding volunteers several times to get the location, but could not make contact because of limited cell phone service.
After a stop at the Westphalia fire department, which was empty – confirming to himself he was in the right general area - and an unproductive drive around Westphalia searching for signs of the fire he went back to the station and called Iman, who gave him the address. Just as he loaded the address into his cell phone an ambulance pulled into the lot. Ambulance personnel confirmed the address, which was in rural Freeburg, and Schulte set out to the location.
When he arrived about 4 a.m. on the cold morning, three Red Cross volunteers came walking his way after completing their meeting with the clients.
“They were getting ready to get in their car and go home,” Schulte said. “I talked to them for a few minutes, told them who I was and what we were doing. They didn’t know who I was or what the board did. I told them our goal is to work with all of the volunteers to see what they go through and what they do. I told them if we’re able to help improve on that in some way as board members then that’s what we want to do.”
Schulte stayed after the volunteers left and eventually made his way to talk with the client.
“I asked him if there was anything we could do or offer that we hadn’t and he said no.” Schulte said. “He was appreciative of the Red Cross showing up and offering support. We talked for a few minutes and I remembered I still had a large coffee in my truck. I gave it to him and I think he appreciated that as well, but he was still going through the shock of what was happening.”
Schulte, a retired Missouri National Guard sergeant major, realizes the value of the Pass the Vest Program even though his first effort did not meet expectations.
“We can’t do much or be very effective as a board if we don’t know what our functions and roles are,” he said. “I think it gives everybody insight into the working parts to help work together.
“They (volunteers) know if there is something that needs improvement perhaps the board is the place to go with their ideas. I told them the goal is to make it better for everybody. Maybe there is nothing we can do to improve on it, but we as a board will have a working knowledge of what they deal with.”