Amy Martin was relaxing on her couch watching football just days after Hurricane Ian missed her in Bradenton, Fla.
“It was a typical Saturday after the storm,” she said. But something didn’t feel right. She knew people needed help. People who lived not so far away.
“I saw a social media post asking for volunteers, so I clicked through and signed up. It was impulsive. I knew I needed to do something. The American Red Cross was a great fit for me,” she said.
On that whim, Martin became a Disaster Event Based Volunteer. The Red Cross relies on thousands of trained disaster relief volunteers, but on many disaster operations, local residents step up to get “just in time training” and work alongside Red Crossers from across the country.
Martin was paired with Alexander Brown, a Red Cross volunteer from New York who was deployed for the first time. Together, they were assigned to drive a Red Cross disaster supplies truck.
Martin and Brown stocked up with flood clean-up supplies, including large plastic tote boxes.
“People love the totes,” Brown noticed. “You just can’t find them in stores. They’re all cleared out. They can use the totes to safely store items they salvage while cleaning.”
They also had shovels, rakes, mops, brooms, gloves, garbage bags, batteries, and more. Again, cleanup necessities that are in short supply after a disaster.
“People are so grateful when we knock on their door and offer to just give them stuff they need,” Martin marveled.
“Many people around here can’t drive. Their cars were underwater,” Brown said. “So, door-to-door delivery of cleanup supplies really helps.”
Brown also noticed how welcome the Red Cross mobile feeding trucks are, bringing food, water, and snacks to people busy cleaning out their homes, especially in areas where utilities were not back to normal.
The team of Brown and Martin was in one hard-hit community by 9:30 in the morning, and it didn’t take long to lighten their load.
“We’re already out of totes,” Martin said. “And we’re low on tarps. They’re very popular. We’ve connected with 28 families so far this morning.”
At the three-week point, after Hurricane Ian made landfall, the Red Cross had distributed nearly 353,000 relief items, including comfort kits in shelters, and served more than 20,000 households.
“I’m hooked,” Martin said. “After this, I’ll still be a Red Cross volunteer. I want to do this more. I want to learn more so I can do more as a volunteer.”
American Red Cross relief is free to anyone with disaster-caused needs, thanks to the generosity of the American people. To become a trained disaster volunteer, go to redcross.org/volunteer or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Written by Darrell Fuller, American Red Cross Public Affairs