By Los Angeles Region CEO, Jarrett Barrios
I write to you today from Ground Zero, deployed to the Red Cross Houston headquarters. It’s muggy here. 92 degrees in the shade.
And speaking of shade, over the last week, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking my “sanity breaks” in the shade of the rear warehouse of the headquarters. There are no chairs— just pallets of water, boxes of blankets and cots, and a whole lot of Emergency Response Vehicles. Panning the whole scope of the warehouse area is awe-inspiring. The amount of stuff the Red Cross needs to accomplish its mission, to move to sites across the city (to some areas that are still underwater) is amazing. And just think: there are dozens of centers just like this one throughout Texas.
How does this all happen?
Well, it isn’t Houston being left to solve its problems on its own. And it’s not a national office pushing out solutions. Every Red Cross region across around the country is leaning in and helping. Even where, as we know in LA, we struggle to meet our own response needs— like the La Tuna Canyon Fire that burned the hills near Burbank over Labor Day weekend. Even where we stepped up to the challenge to prepare for our monumental Sound the Alarm campaign— to make L.A. safer from home fires in late September and October of this year. We are truly One Red Cross.
As I began my deployment one week ago, and despite my absence locally, I started to notice every component of the Red Cross in Los Angeles joining forces for one very important goal: to help Houston.
Our Region has deployed over 40 Angelenos to Texas and Louisiana to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts. And another 17 volunteers have deployed virtually, supporting the response from Los Angeles to help save lives. In fact, Los Angeles based Red Crossers have been working around the clock, staffing the national Call Center—with both English and Spanish speakers. Northern Valleys Chapter Executive Director, Raul Claros, actually helped save the life of an elderly man who was trapped by the flood and spoke only Spanish. And, Michael Sproule, a Los Angeles Region volunteer, took the call that saved roughly 200 people who were stranded inside a Houston library without food or water. Our Volunteer Services team has also been very busy, registering new Harvey-inspired volunteers.
Of course, all the materials, staff and technology that makes it possible to respond to the dramatic and extensive needs of Houstonians takes resources. Lots of resources. Our fundraising team has witnessed a huge uptick in giving. A great example was the Disney-ABC Day of Giving telethon. Out in L.A. (and I’ve been told beginning at 3:30 a.m.) more than 40 volunteers manned the phone lines at our local ABC news station, ABC7 in Glendale, to accept donations from concerned and compassionate residents who had tuned-in to special Day of Giving broadcasts across the ABC Network. I was happy to see our volunteers joined on-air by many of the ABC Network and The Disney Channel’s biggest stars, like Scott Foley, Debbie Allen and Chris Harrison – just to name a few.
Then, the very next day, another telethon brought more than 70 Red Cross volunteers and members of the Los Angeles Region Board of Directors together with NBCLA/Telemundo52 television personalities. From here in Texas, I followed along on social media as NBC dedicated programming throughout the day to encourage people from all corners of the U.S., including Southern California, to call in and donate for Red Cross Hurricane Harvey relief.
Thanks in no small part to these efforts, the nearly 40,000 people that stayed in Red Cross shelters during the height of our sheltering program will have more than just hope. They will have blankets, cots, and food. Those who need to get back to normal life will be visited by a van or bus carrying important recovery materials. And soon, feeding trucks will begin to drive the streets of Texas’ largest city to distribute cleaning supplies and food.
Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing with me a renewed commitment of compassion and for always being One Red Cross. Now, onward, to helping Houston!
Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. But, above all, Jarrett Barrios is a humanitarian, with more than 20 years of experience helping those in need throughout the United States and Cuba.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org