The American Red Cross responds quickly when disaster strikes. News programs are filled with striking scenes of disaster relief — shelters housing hundreds of survivors, the distribution of thousands of meals and disaster assessment volunteers at work across the affected area. But these efforts would be impossible without the support of the Operations Department working behind the scenes.
Take for example transporting a Red Cross emergency response vehicle from one location to another. That effort doesn’t capture news headlines, but it is essential to the mission. Randy Whitehead and Dan Stokes have been doing various behind-the-scenes tasks for the Red Cross for many years.
“Driving isn’t a glamorous job, but it’s a much-needed one,” said Stokes.
“Volunteers and staff don’t realize what it takes to keep a fleet in working condition,” said Whitehead.
The Missouri and Arkansas Region they volunteer with maintains more than 300 different vehicles that are in constant motion for service delivery, maintenance, replacement, or just having to be moved to another part of the region for a particular need. Some trips are across town, and others are long and take the better part of the day.
Both men are more introverted and like the time alone, listening to their tunes as they drive down the highway. “Nobody is bothering you,” said Whitehead. He got his start in 2007 driving blood products around the city, but “lifting all those boxes got to be too much for me, so I moved over and joined a Disaster Action Team as a duty officer and really liked that side of the business,” he said. A duty officer monitors emergency calls and dispatches Red Cross volunteers to local disasters like home fires where volunteers ensure those impacted have a place to stay, and can replace food, clothing, and medications they may have lost.
Being an early riser, Whitehead takes a lot of the early morning shifts. Last year, he worked some 2,400 hours covering numerous calamities. “Once you get involved in the Red Cross, you see how fortunate you have been. You want to give something back to your community and you quickly see your service is needed.”
Stokes occupies another behind-the-scenes position as the Recovery Compliance Regional Program Lead for the region, which occupies perhaps three days of his work week. The job involves a lot of paperwork, reviewing individual cases and combing through the after-action reports to determine if policies were followed correctly and if the person assisted was served as well as possible under the circumstances.
“Being a retired mathematics teacher, I like doing reports such as the monthly compliance and client satisfaction progress reports. These help our staff understand where a lack of training happened or what needs improvement, or who needs to take ownership of a problem.” Stokes has been a Red Cross volunteer for 18 years.
“There are many Red Cross volunteers who aren’t in the limelight, who are helping behind the scenes and doing much-needed jobs,” said Stokes.
Anyone interested in volunteering may sign up at www.redcross.org/volunteer and for more information prior to signing up in the Missouri and Arkansas Region (also includes border counties in Kansas in the Kansas City and St Joseph area, and border counties in Illinois in the St. Louis and Cape Girardeau area), register for a webinar at www.redcross.org/ARCVolunteerFair.