By Macall Meslin, Red Cross writer
On the rainy morning of July 10th, 2023, a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) ventured from Bethlehem, New Hampshire, making its way to Vermont. The landscape, usually known for its picturesque beauty, bore witness to nature’s fury after days of catastrophic flooding swept through the area. With rainfall amounts varying between three to nine inches across the state in just 48 hours, flash flooding and river flooding had inundated numerous communities, washing away roads, bridges, and hope. Despite the raging torrents, inside the ERV, the spirit was undeterred. Retirees Rich and Pamela Newman were on a mission to aid the Red Cross in responding to this disaster.
When asked about their reason for diving headfirst into the chaos, the couple said their journey was unexpected. Having accomplished their initial goal of delivering cots and blankets to shelters in Chelsea and Randolph, Rich said, “I thought that was it, [but] we get to Killington, and they say, ‘Oh, you’re here for your two-week deployment, right?’”
Chucking, Rich recalled telling them, “No, but we can spare a few days.”
Their journey continued to Barre, Vermont, where they found themselves transporting food and displaced residents between emergency shelters and local hotels, offering a lifeline to those grappling with the weight of the devastation.
Every mile they traveled painted a somber picture of the damage left behind by the floods. Reflecting on the day prior, Pamela said, “It’s very difficult to watch these people, who have lived here all their lives, witnessing everything get totally wiped out. It’s difficult to watch all the furniture and their belongings being put out on the front yard only to get drenched again last night…But we have a heart for it, and we want to help.”
With each hand they shook and each meal they delivered; hope seemed to seep back into the community. Rich, reflecting on the profound impact of even the smallest gestures, said, “It means a lot to people just to see us drive by. They think, ‘Wow, somebody’s here to help.’”
Pamela added, reminiscing on her interactions, “One guy drove us 15 miles. Another guy drove us 15 or 18 miles to get us to where we needed to go – to keep us off the roads that were washed out, because they were local folks.”
Rich and Pamela’s spirit of volunteerism had deep roots. ‘Why the Red Cross?’ one might wonder.
“Because of my wife,” smiled Rich.
The duo are former hospital administrators, usually busy tending to their apple orchard, felt the call to do more – to become beacons of hope for communities experiencing disaster. From the online classes to their first deployment in Jackson, Mississippi, after a tornado, their commitment grew.
Reflecting on the fulfillment derived from his and Pamela’s volunteer experiences, Rich said, “When everything is fine, people may think, ‘Oh, the Red Cross…maybe I’ll donate a few dollars.’ But being there, on the ground, it changes you.”
Rich, describing what hope he thinks the Red Cross brings to people, added, “A lot is all I can say.”
Rich and Pamela stand testament to the transformative power of compassion. Theirs is a story not only of volunteering, but also of hope, resilience, and the undeniable strength of community.
Our mission at the Red Cross is made possible by the support and dedication of volunteers like Rich and Pamela. Join us in lending a hand when it is needed most by signing up to volunteer at redcross.org/VolunteerNNE, because every gesture, no matter how small, can help rebuild a life.
You can also support our humanitarian mission through a financial gift. Ensure people receive the help they need when it’s needed most. Donate here: redcross.org/Donate.