James Ravenel, an American Red Cross volunteer with the Central Florida Chapter, hunkered down while the storm passed, and then he went right back to work at the office in Orlando. His clients need him whether there is a hurricane or clear skies.
James is the Greater Orlando Coordinator of a unique Red Cross service called “Dial-A-Friend.” His clients, all older adults and mostly living alone, call him whenever they have a need or sometimes when they just need someone to talk to.
But James doesn’t wait for them to call him. He has several big binders of client calendars in his office, and his team of two calls these special people every day.
“Most of them are signed up by family members,” said James. “But many call in themselves and sign up.”
James explained that whenever a new client calls in, he interviews them and completes an information sheet with basic address and family information and the client’s hobbies, activities, and interests. He even asks about their favorite colors, candies, and beverages.
Once he learns their preferences and needs, James organizes a monthly calendar for them and makes sure they are called daily.
“I call them Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays,” said James, “and Miss Queen calls them Wednesdays and Fridays.” His Dial-A-Friend partner, Queen Rutledge, makes her calls from her home, but James prefers to come into the office to make his calls and visit with fellow Red Crossers.
James said that if the clients have any special needs when they call, he and Miss Queen will try to help them, but usually, it’s just checking in and chatting. If a client has an upcoming doctor’s appointment, James or Miss Queen with mark it on their calendar and remind the client the day before.
But when a storm like Hurricane Ian approaches, the team makes extra calls.
“We called them to make sure that they were in an area that wasn’t at risk of flooding or they had family or friends to take them to safety before the storm,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for many years, and I love it.”
When listening to James talk about the people he calls every day, it’s obvious he loves this special population. Storms may come and go, but James Ravenel is a constant in the lives of the clients who count on his support and friendship.