By Kristine Laio, Red Cross Volunteer
Early in the morning on September 9, Mary Dorman received a call from the emergency services manager in the city of Gasquet. The city had just been ordered to evacuate due to the Slater Fire. Eighteen miles away in Crescent City, Mary was ready to help.
Mary is no stranger to the American Red Cross. For 13 years, she has served through many iterations of her county’s Red Cross board chapters, the most recent being the transition to the California Gold Country Region.
Mary credits her upbringing overseas and her mother, who believed in service for others. She began volunteering in 2007 and became a board member for the then Del Norte County Chapter. “At the same time, I had also just opened my State Farm agency, so helping people when disaster strikes is in my bones,” Mary said.
About a half an hour after the initial call, the Temporary Evacuation Point at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds was up and running, ready to assist clients. Red Cross volunteers registered nearly 300 clients, who had to remain in their cars due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
The team placed 136 clients in hotels and served over 150 meals that first night.
Mary credits the quick mobilization to community partnerships with the Red Cross, Del Norte County Office of Health and Human Services and CERT.
“It was a team effort,” she said.
Elk Valley Rancheria and local restaurants donated meals and helped collect monetary donations, raising nearly $3,000. When a client who lost his home had car trouble, local car dealership Coast Auto Center provided services at no cost and got him back on the road.
“We’re small but mighty up here in our rural Red Cross communities,” Mary said. “At the end of the day, it’s about taking care of each other.”
“When people are going through disasters, when you find you have no home, all you have are the clothes on your back, it’s a grieving process. I have family and friends who lost everything in the Camp Fire. My husband was born and raised in Paradise,” Mary shared. “Suddenly, you do not have control, you don’t know where you’re going to spend the night, you don’t have a toothbrush! You don’t have anything!
“And here comes people with that magic red vest that say, ‘I care and you’re going to be okay – here’s a toothbrush.’ That, to me, is the best of the human spirit. That’s how we’re supposed to be with each other.”
“For me, no one does that like the Red Cross does,” Mary added. “The Fundamental Principles are very near and dear to my heart, just from my own personal experiences. Again, being born and raised overseas, I’ve seen people go through good times and I’ve seen them go through bad and the best of humanity. We take care of each other. I want to be part of the solution. That’s important to me.”
If you have the time, you can make a significant impact as a Red Cross volunteer. There are jobs for everyone, regardless of your background, skills or how much time you have to give. Review our most urgently needed volunteer positions at redcross.org/volunteertoday