By: Laura Warfel
Construction. Damage assessment. Team leadership. Business ownership. Love of the outdoors. For Hansen Doolittle, his many areas of expertise merge in his service as a volunteer with the American Red Cross.
“I grew up in Oklahoma City, so I’m familiar with natural disasters and their damage,” Hansen says. “Living in Arkansas, I’ve been through tornadoes and floods. None of the disasters are ever the same.”
When he saw the difference Red Cross volunteers made during an Arkansas flood event in 2018, Hansen knew he wanted to volunteer to help with future disasters. He applied, completed his training, and got involved quickly in 2019. Under the leadership of Oscar Peterson, another volunteer, he became a team leader and began utilizing his management, construction, and damage assessment skills at disaster sites in Arkansas and Missouri.
“The Red Cross empowers volunteers to take action and help others,” Hansen says. “That means a lot to me as a small business owner because I’m used to making decisions and taking action.”
“No matter what situation we’re dealing with as volunteers, we’re filling needs at the very moment someone has had their life uprooted,” he adds. “I see how our work makes noticeable and meaningful changes. And I remember those moments. They sustain me later.”
Hansen recalls his volunteer experience with the Jonesboro, Arkansas tornado survivors as one of those memorable moments. The tornado went through the middle of the city on the Saturday night of the high school prom. “There were no deaths and minimal injuries that night,” he says. “I was helping to coordinate our Red Cross disaster assessment teams on the ground. This was just after the COVID-19 pandemic began, and we were still trying to figure out how to deliver services safely.”
Hansen is thankful for the quality volunteers with whom he has opportunities to serve. “Working with Jorge and Nola Boston is always a pleasure,” he says. “I remember one deployment we had together in southern Arkansas. We came in together after the relief efforts had already begun. There was a massive amount of ground to cover. Their reliability and efficiency made such a difference for our disaster assessment team.”
Hansen encourages other business owners to consider using their skills and resources in volunteering with the Red Cross. From his gratitude for being able to create his own livelihood, he feels a responsibility to serve others in meaningful ways. “As volunteers, all of us bring what we have to offer,” he says. “Especially our time. Together, we care for our fellow Americans, our neighbors. Disasters and COVID-19 aren’t stopping. Red Cross volunteers aren’t either. We keep showing up.”