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.
By Robert W. Wallace/American Red Cross
Washington, Illinois, November 24, 2013. “We were at church when the tornadoes came through,” said American Red Cross volunteer Shannon Roberts. Hearing the noise, she and many of her fellow congregants went outside to see what was going on. “In the distance we could see debris flying everywhere. We quickly got all the kids into the church bathrooms until the storm passed. “Afterwards, people were in a panic. No one knew exactly who was hit and there was no cell phone service. Everyone was concerned about friends and family,” recalled Roberts.
Both Roberts’ church and home are on the edges of the huge area of destruction that was left in the wake of the multiple tornadoes that plummeted this area on November 17. Once she saw that she and her family were safe, including her parents who were at another church service when the storm hit, she wanted to do something to help. So, she picked up the phone and called the Red Cross.
Approaching the Red Cross was a natural for Roberts. Back in September the Roberts’ family home had caught fire and the Red Cross was there to offer them assistance. “They gave us some short-term financial help, toiletries, blankets, and stuffed animals,” said Roberts. The Red Cross also offered hotel accommodations but they were not needed as the Roberts family, her husband and two children, along with their two dogs and two cats, were able to stay with Shannon Roberts’ parents. “The Red Cross did provide our neighbors with a hotel room though,” recalled Roberts; “ their home was damaged by the fire.”
Roberts was also familiar with the Red Cross through her work at Grainger, where she is a sales manager. Grainger, a leading supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products, has been a long-time partner with the Red Cross and is the National Founding Partner in launching the American Red Cross Ready When the Time Comes™ disaster volunteer program. Grainger donated $3 million to launch Volunteer Connection, an online volunteer management system that is a key asset for the Red Cross in recruiting, managing, and deploying volunteers.
Volunteer Connection is where Roberts filled out a Red Cross Volunteer Application Form. Several days later she received a call from the Red Cross: “can you help out this weekend at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at Five Points in Washington,” the caller asked?
“I’ve been happy to do whatever they ask me to do,” said Roberts. She spent the weekend doing a various jobs at the MARC, including packing food boxes and working as a greeter at the entrance to the one-stop site for interacting and receiving assistance from the Red Cross and over 30 other community and disaster relief organizations.
“I feel that I have been a real asset here,” said Roberts. This is my community; I know where things are; I know many of these people. Several times I’ve been able to talk to people ready to leave. They did not want to take the time and did not understand what the MARC was all about,” said Roberts. But after she talked with them and encouraged them to register with the Red Cross and other agencies relevant to their situation, many of them came away with significant disaster-relief benefits.
Roberts is now a committed Red Cross volunteer. “It’s been a great experience. I was readily accepted by the other Red Cross volunteers, and I feel that I have been a real help here,” concluded Roberts.