The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
Note: this story was written by Mid-South Red Cross Volunteer Bob Wallace during his recent deployment to the national disaster response in Moore, Oklahoma.
Norman, Oklahoma, June 9, 2013.
Who do you call if you need a plan to provide one million meals in 72 hours? Fred Kinsey is who the American Red Cross calls. Kinsey, a Red Cross volunteer, was once called upon to use his 42 years of kitchen management experience to help develop just such a plan to help the Red Cross prepare for major disasters. .
Kinsey, from Monroe, Michigan, is currently in charge of Red Cross Kitchen Number 1 in Norman, Oklahoma, a kitchen that prepares between 4,000 and 5,000 meals a day for persons affected by the recent tornados in the Oklahoma City area. “I just enjoy it, but you could not pay me enough to do it,” said Kinsey as he thought about the demands of the job.
Kitchen 1 is a joint operation between the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief and the American Red Cross. The Southern Baptists are responsible for preparing the thousands of meals needed every day and the Red Cross workers distribute the meals using their fleet of emergency vehicles. Kinsey is especially qualified to supervise such an operation. Prior to becoming a kitchen manager for the Red Cross, he spent ten years as a “Baptist White Cap,” the term used to describe state and national directors of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. This experience makes him uniquely qualified to head the kitchen collaboration and prompts him to often refer to himself as “Fred the Baptist.”
When asked why he has continued to dedicate so much time and effort as a Red Cross volunteer, Kinsey recalls one of his first experiences with the Red Cross. It was a cold wintery period in Michigan, and a snow storm had shut down most transportation. The Red Cross issued a call for volunteers who had four-wheel drive vehicles that could negotiate the otherwise snowed-clogged roads. Kinsey, sporting a brand new four-wheel-drive truck, stepped forward at his wife’s urging and spent several days delivering medicine and groceries to snowed-bound Michigan citizens.
On the last day of the operation, Kinsey was asked to pick up a young lady and her infant from a home that had lost all power and was getting dangerously cold. As the young lady approached Kinsey’s truck, she handed a well-bundled infant to him. Turning back the blanket, Kinsey gazed into the brilliant blue eyes of the young child and its captivating and trusting smile. “I was hooked, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” said Kinsey as he wiped a tear from his cheek.
When asked about the hardest part of his job, Kinsey indicated that it’s at the beginning, getting everything set up and the computer inventory and ordering programs organized and running properly. I’ve created many unique versions of the official Red Cross computer forms that makes the job easier, noted Kinsey.
Kinsey has managed kitchen operations for every major hurricane since Hurricane Bob in 1991. Usually he is on the scene early and sometimes even before the storm hits. He was in New Jersey when Superstorm Sandy came through, safely ensconced in a storm bunker, ready to set up another kitchen operation to serve the many people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm. He says the hardest operation he has had to manage was during the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. “It was difficult due to the nature of the event. Also, there are few places in New York large enough to set up the size kitchen we needed,” he noted.
The Oklahoma Tornado was an exception for Kinsey: he was not on the scene until two weeks after the tornados tore through the city of Moore. It was his granddaughter’s graduation time; she told him “Papa you will be at my graduation.” He was there, but afterwards he headed to Oklahoma to serve one more time.
Story and photo credits: Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross