Everyone has a story to tell. Some are stories of joy, happiness, or love, while others are of sadness, hurt, or darkness. When first meeting someone, we don’t initially know what their stories are. As human beings, we all likely have a range of different stories that have made us who we are today.
As a volunteer for the American Red Cross, listening to the stories of those affected by a disaster is one of the most important aspects of the mission. Having the kindness and willingness to lend a listening ear to someone going through what could be the most devastating moment of their lives is one simple way to help alleviate human suffering.
Many of the stories that are told to volunteers, when responding to a disaster, are of how a hurricane destroyed everything they own, or how a home fire started in the middle of the night forcing them to watch their home burn to the ground. While these are heartbreaking to hear, one consistent ending to each of their stories is, the Red Cross was there. Without the passion, commitment, and empathy of our volunteers, this ending may cease to exist.
MaryJo Timmons, a volunteer with the Red Cross for over 2 years, not only exemplifies these qualities as a volunteer but has her own story to share as well. “During a disaster, I feel like this is the time for me to shine and to be there for them, no matter what the situation is. I am there to help them get through a difficult time in their lives. Total strangers, that I can make a positive impact in their lives. I listen to what they have to say, I give them hope, compassion, and usually a lot of laughs. We make a special connection that will last a lifetime,” says Timmons.
The devastating impact that Hurricane Laura made on Louisiana and parts of Texas is undeniable. Volunteers and staff from the Red Cross South Florida Region didn’t hesitate to raise their hands to help our neighbors in their time of need. Timmons was one of the volunteers that deployed to Lake Charles, Louisiana in early September.
“Being a volunteer for the Red Cross is very rewarding. It is truly an honor to meet other volunteers that have the same passion, selflessness, and devotion to helping others. I am proud to not only serve my community but to serve anyone that’s in need,” says Timmons.
During her deployment, she not only made a positive impact on the victims of Hurricane Laura, but she also changed the life of a 4-pound Doberman Pincher. She remembers, “This little guy was tied up and trapped under a manufactured home that was totally destroyed by the hurricane. He was abandoned by his owners and left to endure this storm on his own.”
Timmons and her deployment partner were on a disaster assessment assignment when they came across a row of eight manufactured homes, all of which were destroyed. “We saw a man standing there, so we stopped to see if he needed help. We walked around to assess the damage and heard a dog barking as if he was telling us I am here! He was asking for help. He had no food or water, he was wet, cold, and muddy. We crawled under the home to release him because he was trapped underneath. I got him into my arms, and he was shaking uncontrollably. I held him tight to warm him and make him feel secure, he finally stopped shaking,” Timmons recalls.
Her heart broke for this little dog. She took him to a nearby shelter in hopes that the owners would be looking for him. Every day that she remained deployed in Lake Charles, she called the shelter to check on him. After a full week, no one came looking for him and the owners could not be found.
Timmons couldn’t stop thinking about this sweet, abandoned dog that needed a warm home and someone to love him. She knew in her heart that she could be the person to give him that. On her last day of deployment, she went back to the shelter, picked him up, and flew back home. “He is now part of my family. I call him Chance,” says Timmons.
As a Red Crosser, one of the most exciting aspects for Timmons is, she never knows who or when she will be called to help. Maybe it will be an individual, a family, a community, or in this case, a dog. This is why she is a volunteer for the Red Cross.
Volunteers make a difference in the lives of those affected by disasters nationwide. Their dedication to the Red Cross mission is invaluable and inspiring. If you would like to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer and be the difference maker to those in need, please visit redcross.org/sflvolunteer.
Written by Siara Campbell