As South Carolinians impacted by Hurricane Florence gathered around him for a hot meal, Red Cross volunteer Don Nesbitt accepted their thanks with gracious humility.
Strangers have bought him supper when they’ve see him in his Red Cross shirt. He’s been offered money, which he refused, and people have praised his effort.
He wishes they knew that helping after a disaster is a job no one could pay him to do. And it’s a job with the best kind of paycheck, the chance to make a difference for people in their hour of greatest need.
“I tell people I can’t give back as much as I get back,” Nesbitt said. “I get so much of a blessing in being able to help and do this.”
Nesbitt recently traveled 2,500 miles to South Carolina from Mountain Home, Idaho, with Diana Ochsner of Jerome in a brand-new emergency response vehicle, which was unveiled in Boise only the day before they left. The rain from Hurricane Florence was still coming down as they reached South Carolina.
Most of the year, the disaster response van will be in Idaho to respond to local needs, but it also likely will deploy again.
“We don’t wish a disaster on anybody, but we know it’s going to happen and we want to be prepared,” he said.
Nesbitt delivered meals from kitchens based in Florence and Conway. Coming into Florence from the south, he saw homes that were still flooded. The major highway was closed off and on.
“The areas we went to had been affected. We could see where water had been,” he said. “We would set up a feeding site and people would come to us. The need was definitely there.”
Nesbitt trained for many roles in Red Cross, but he especially likes to work person-to-person. Since August of last year, when he went to Sugarland, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey, the Idahoan has been in Kentucky for flood relief, California for mudslides and now South Carolina for Hurricane Florence. He hopes to deploy once more before his busy season as the local coordinator for the Salvation Army bell-ringing campaign.
“The need is going to be there for quite a while,” he said.
Nesbitt retired in 2011 from the IT department of the Idaho Transportation Department.
Besides responding to local and national emergencies, Nesbitt teaches first aid and CPR classes through the Red Cross. He was inspired to join the organization after a fire destroyed homes and left a woman dead in Columbia Village.