Deb Olson was first inspired to become an American Red Cross volunteer in 2005. She had recently been laid off from work, and while at home one day saw a commercial recruiting Red Cross volunteers. Hurricane Katrina had just hit, and they were advertising a number to call if you could help relief efforts in any way. “I walked into the other room and told my husband that I had to go and help,” she said. “The next day I called the phone number from the commercial and signed up for my first of many Red Cross classes.”
Her first assignment was in Falls Church, Virginia to work in a call center. The first week she took calls from those who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina, Rita, or Wilma. “There was suddenly a shortage of qualified drivers for the Emergency Response Vehicles,” Olson said. “Once they found out that I was ERV qualified, I was transferred to logistics.” Olson then helped drive a 12 passenger van that shuttled volunteers from their call center back to their hotels in Washington D.C. “I wasn’t bad for someone who doesn’t like to drive in big cities!” she said.
Olson deploys nationally quite often and is usually sent as a driver of the ERV. Usually, she helps give food to people affected by disaster. Her most recent national deployment was to Colorado after the floods of September 2013. She spent two weeks helping with disaster assessment and then using the ERV to hand out cleanup items to those affected by the flooding.
Locally, Olson is a member of the Sioux City Disaster Action Team where she assists individuals and families affected by house fires. In June, she volunteered in Rock Valley after they experienced severe flooding.
When asked what moment stands out the most as a volunteer, Olson recalled one memory. “A call I took on my first deployment helping with the hurricanes. It was an elderly woman and I was just about to transfer her call to a nurse to further assist her. Before I did she said that she would pray for me. After all she had been through she was going to pray for me? It brought tears to my eyes and still does now.”
Olson said being a volunteer has been a very rewarding experience. “My favorite part of being a volunteer for the Red Cross is helping those in their time of need, people are always so appreciative!”