Sometimes, We Wear Two Hats

By Heath Wakelee, American Red Cross

Our volunteer, Heath Wakelee, is continuing to join teams assisting evacuees who have had to leave their homes in the face of ongoing wildfires throughout northern California. Heath has captured their experiences of heartache, hope and inspiration in a series of vignettes.

American Red Cross volunteers sometimes find themselves wearing two hats during disasters – volunteer and evacuee.

This is the case for Dominique Smith and Penny Helton, who both had to evacuate from their homes due to wildfires.

What a pleasure it was to meet and talk with Dominique Smith. She is a Red Cross volunteer and is quite active in her Oroville community.

Evacuee and now Red Cross volunteer Dominque Smith poses for a picture during her shift helping people often in similar situations to her and her family.

When she and her family had to evacuate their home and temporarily move to Auburn, she put on the Red Cross vest and began serving others. Dominique also recruited her sister to assist and they are both delivering meals to evacuees.

While Dominique waits for more information about the status of her home, she is committed continuing to volunteering for the Red Cross and helping others in need. 

Penny Helton is also wearing a few hats.

She and her husband were evacuated from Clipper Mills with little time to spare. While her husband was spreading the word of the evacuation to their neighbors, Penny drove to the Yuba County Fairgrounds to help the Red Cross register and assist evacuees. After working all night and much of the next day, Penny and her husband settled in at their assigned motel room in Roseville.

Many of Penny’s neighbors are also housed at the same motel, creating a sense of community. Penny is widely known as a Red Cross volunteer and the motel evacuees rely upon her for support and assistance, which she is always ready to provide.

Both women wear two hats and wear them exceptionally well. We sincerely hope that Dominique and Penny, and their families, can return soon to their homes. We join with their communities in thanking them for their unwavering commitment to serving those in need.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer, sign up today at

Published by

American Red Cross California Gold Country Region

The California Gold Country Region serves a twenty-six county territory including Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties

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