Woodward, Okla. —
Local Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members heard a first-hand report of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts from a state volunteer during their monthly meeting Tuesday.
Karen Daily, who is a Red Cross relief volunteer from Taloga, spoke to members of the Northwest Oklahoma DAT about her recent deployment to New York following the devastating late-October hurricane.
Daily spent 2 weeks working in a Catholic school's dormitory that had been transformed into temporary housing victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"It was a very unique experience. The first 2 days were very intense, things seemed almost chaotic, but I had a fantastic group of volunteers working alongside me and they helped ease my transition," she said.
Daily said she spent the majority of her time as a shelter worker, aiding people living in the dormitories in a variety of ways such as wheeling people in wheelchairs who couldn't get around well themselves and settling disputes amongst the residents. Before she left, Daily had been promoted to shift supervisor.
She also saw over 100 people move out of the shelter.
"When I arrived in Long Island there were 350 people being housed in the dormitory, by the time I'd left there were only 220," Daily said.
VOLUNTEERING BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS
In addition to her duties, Daily spoke about the relationships she established as a Red Cross volunteer.
"You meet some fantastic people," she said. "There were volunteers from all over the United States from California to Colorado, even some from the US Virgin Islands. When Thanksgiving came around volunteers from the Canadian Red Cross showed up as well to make up for the Americans going home to spend the holiday with their families. And even though the people living in the dorms because of Hurricane Sandy were suffering they were really sweet people."
Daily continued, "I'm staying in touch with many of the people I met there, several of us still text each other. It was really a very positive experience."
Daily explained that in exchange for her volunteerism, the Red Cross took care of all of her food, lodging, and travel expenses.
"The Red Cross takes great care of volunteers. When I arrived in Long Island they provided me with material that explained everything from how to ride the New York subway to how to hail a cab. It was quite an experience," she said.
VOLUNTEERING IS WORTHWHILE
Daily also acknowledged the sacrifices Red Cross volunteers must make in order to aid those in need. However, she said those sacrifices are manageable compared to what the families affected by the disaster may be experiencing.
"When the Red Cross called to ask if I could go to New York to help with volunteer efforts, I started thinking about all the things I needed to do and why I couldn't go, but then I thought to myself, 'This is what you signed up for,'" she said. "Even though it was inconvenient for me, I thought, 'Think how inconvenient it is for the people who've lost everything.'"
Now after all she experienced volunteering in New York, Daily said she is even more willing to volunteer in future Red Cross disaster relief efforts. She even plans to seek further training to pursue becoming a Red Cross volunteer supervisor.
Daily said she also absolutely encourages others to become volunteers.
"It's hard work walking around and seeing what everyone needs, but it's a very rewarding experience. You see these people who've lost everything and you count your blessings. It's a one of a kind experience and the relationships you build with volunteers and victims are very enduring," she said.
HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER
Those interested in following Daily's example and becoming Red Cross volunteers themselves may find it the opportune time to do so for several reasons, one of which being the availability of openings at the American Red Cross in Northwest Oklahoma.
Local Disaster Services and Operation Coordinator Gordon Burgess said, "Currently we are actively seeking volunteers to help aid in Red Cross efforts both nationwide as well as locally in the 8 counties the Northwest Oklahoma Red Cross branch covers."
He said the implementation of the Red Cross' new online volunteer application has made volunteering easier than ever before.
"For those interested in volunteering, all they have to do is go to www.okc.redcross.org, click 'Volunteer,' scroll down and click 'Complete a Volunteer Application Today,' then click 'General Volunteer: Online Orientation,' and hit 'Submit,'" he said.
Paper applications are also available at the Red Cross office on 1209 9th St. in Woodward.
Burgess also made note of the Red Cross's new Volunteer Connection website that allows volunteers to update their volunteer information, such as training they've had and certifications they hold, keep in contact with other volunteers from around the area, as well as select locations where they'd like to go to volunteer.
Those interested in more information about volunteering for the Red Cross are encouraged to visit www.redcross.org or contact Gordon Burgess at 256-3828.