For more than a decade, Ron Martel, has comforted hundreds of families as they watch their homes burn to the ground. Serving as an American Red Cross in Maine Disaster Action Team volunteer, Ron is often times the first on the scene of a home fire and recently deployed to Louisiana to help those affected by the deadly flooding in the region.
Having been born and raised in Biddeford, Ron joined the Red Cross shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Ron wanted “to do more for his country” so joined the organization’s Disaster Services program and focused his efforts on helping families impacted by disasters.
“In the middle of the night, we go out to someone’s house that is on fire. We look into their eyes while their whole life may be falling apart around them and we shine a light of hope on the situation,” said Ron. “I tell them, we are going to give them a place to stay; we are going to take care of their clothing; we are going to get the food they need and keep them focused on what is really important, the health of their family and moving forward.”
“The relief of knowing that people care for one another,” has kept Ron involved with the organization for the last 13 years. “When you respond to a home fire, you are most likely helping one family but when you go out on deployment to a national disaster, you are helping an entire neighborhood, community, and state,” said Ron from his deployment. “That’s helping out a lot of people and when you have a chance to do that on a deployment, there’s no better joy.”
Early in September of 2016, Ron boarded a plane from Portland to Baton Rouge. In Louisiana, Ron served as a Red Cross shelter supervisor that cared for 1,800 individuals. The people coming to the shelter had lost everything in the floods and Ron ensured they had a safe, clean and friendly environment to sleep. In addition, the shelter provided individuals with an opportunity to access local and federal assistance programs being provided to the flood victims. Because of Ron’s exemplary work in Louisiana, the leadership team within Red Cross recognized him with the Disaster Cycle Services Challenge Coin, an awarded given out to those who provide services above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the lives of others.
As Ron was preparing to travel home to Maine at the end of his deployment, Hurricane Matthew started towards the southeast region of the United States and he knew that others would be in need of his help. Rather than flying to Maine, Ron took a flight from Louisiana to Florida and then drove the rest of the way to North Carolina to join in the massive Red Cross relief effort being organized.
Being in Louisiana was “so rewarding; I didn’t want it to end so I headed towards the state predicted to be impacted most by Hurricane Matthew. I’ve learned so much and have a lot of knowledge that I’ll bring back home to Maine with me,” said Ron from North Carolina.
Only a few days into his second deployment, Ron was awarded with another Disaster Cycle Services Challenge Coin because of the extreme care and support he provided the families in North Carolina who were arriving at the shelter. “When someone shows up a shelter, chances are they have used up every other resource and this is their last resort. They are looking for someone to listen to them, someone to lean on, and for someone to say, it’s going to be okay and direct them on where to go to get the resources they need to start the recovery process.”
For countless families in Louisiana, North Carolina and Maine, Ron has provided a shoulder to lean on when they need it most. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross in Maine, visit our website at www.MaineRedCross.org and click on “volunteer” to learn more about opportunities within the organization.