By: Chloe Hamilton
Nancy and Ron Strader are retired from their careers, but that didn’t slow them down from launching into the American Red Cross over the past four years—first in Houston and now Amarillo, Texas, where they respond to disasters large and small. The Straders first learned about the opportunity to volunteer with the Red Cross in 2018.
Their journey began as they were just starting retirement, when an old church friend suggested they volunteer with the Red Cross, to which the couple agreed. A couple of days later, the couple deployed to Georgia to join the relief efforts already underway to aid the people affected by Hurricane Michael.
While they were handing out water, food, care kits and other supplies, the positive spirit of the people they helped solidified their commitment in the Red Cross. They described running into a man who came by for some water, saying that a tree fell on his roof. The man said that he moved to the other side of his house when people asked if he was okay and that he would be alright. The human spirit of perseverance in that man inspired the couple.
As soon as they returned from Georgia, the Houston Red Cross gave them Disaster Action Team fundamental and management training along with case worker and intake training to help further the couple in their volunteer roles. The added training helped the Straders hone their skills and be more helpful to the people in the South Texas area. The couple became prominent volunteers, helping with floods, tornadoes, fires and several other disasters. They’ve helped train other, more local, volunteers to help with emergencies that they could not get to immediately.
In their 12 years of marriage, they have always worked as a team. Ron describes Nancy as a computer expert, while Nancy mentions how Ron uses his skills as a former professional cowboy to help calm people down right after a disaster. Ron helps collect the information from those affected by disasters to help them, and Nancy processes it.
While in Georgia, Ron and Nancy met Betsy Cornette, the disaster program manager of the Red Cross chapter in Amarillo. That moment was significant for the couple and is one reason they left Houston for Amarillo. Amarillo, which is part of the Texas panhandle, is quiet compared to the busyness and noisiness of Space City.
Since arriving in Amarillo, the Straders continue working together to help others, particularly with fires. Nancy describes one instance when talking to a local volunteer fire department that did not have the resources to help the residents displaced by the fire, after the family had lost everything. The fire fighters felt bad about not being able to do enough. Nancy told them that is the very reason why the department should call the Red Cross—to help the family get back on their feet.
Out of all the positions that they’ve had since joining the Red Cross, the Straders’ favorite is being the boots on the ground. Being able to help people in person after a disaster, seeing the good that can happen. One of the biggest rewards of working with the Red Cross as the couple describes it is seeing the look of relief on peoples’ faces when they see someone come and say, “You are not alone, the Red Cross is here to help.”
That statement embodies the work of the Straders. They are there for people in need. It’s something they repeat time and again to volunteers they train and show it through their actions. “It doesn’t matter, hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, whatever,” Ron says. “People are distressed. So, when we show up with a smile, and say what can we do to help, you can see them relax a little. Because someone is here, available to help. And that is the purpose of the Red Cross.”