Moving Out From Behind the Desk
by Haleigh Kopinski, Volunteer
In my three years as an intern with the American Red Cross, I have been involved in various opportunities. I have seen supplies be distributed during Hurricane Sandy, seen coworkers and volunteers hurry to get to a house fire in the Pittsburgh area, but I had never seen what happens on the frontlines of disasters.
From my desk, I deal with training and class scheduling more than anything else. The most I saw volunteers and workers do directly to help the public in our area I had only seen on the news. However, one slow day in the office there was a house fire in a nearby area and I was asked if I would like to come along.
I had no idea what to expect. I had never been on a fire call. I wasn’t exactly sure what the Red Cross did once on site and I wasn’t sure what to do myself. Upon arriving, I immediately noticed the restoration company boarding up the woman’s house who had been partially destroyed. The fire crew had clearly been scene for a while as smoke was now gone and all that was left was the blackened ghost of what was once a home. Right away the rest of the Red Cross volunteers and employees who had come to help got into action as I stood dumbfounded.
Throughout the next hour or two, the house’s damage was assessed, a room was found in a nearby hotel for the client, and other types of basic assistance were given. There was a clear change of mood in the client. They were in a sheer state of astonishment – one that I couldn’t help but share with them. In just a few short hours prior to our arrival, a life had been devastated. In a few even shorter hours after our arrival, hope had been give back to this life. The volunteers and employees of the Red Cross had made all of this possible by simply helping out.
There are very few things that you can see on the news, hear from other people, or read in a newspaper, that you can fully grasp without witnessing them yourself. In my three years with the Red Cross, I had never seen a life change first hand. After almost three hours witnessing a fire call, that had all changed.
The amount I have learned from this experience is unimaginable. The Red Cross will not only help humans who are in need of short-term shelter, but animals as well. Volunteers or workers who are on call will respond as soon as possible, not the next day or next week. There are other companies and organizations involved in helping the Red Cross make decisions in how to approach handling the client’s need (such as local fire departments, police departments, and restoration companies).
For someone who was starting to lose sight of the “bigger picture”; the impact that simple things such as data entry and class scheduling have in the long run. Trainings must be available for volunteers to become able to go on these calls to help others. There is a long chain of jobs that make these helping calls possible. It’s hard to find people to hold a door for you anymore, let alone help once their house has burned down. The Red Cross doesn’t just help with major disasters; they also help with minor ones as well.
There’s a sense of community when there’s someone there to help your neighbor, or a friend. With volunteers and workers like the ones who respond to these calls everyday, that will be something that is reassured over and over.