Carolee White: DAT (and many other things) Volunteer Extraordinaire

By Debbie Calcote, Disaster Program Manager

Volunteer Carolee White has taken 75% of all the Disaster Action Team calls we have had in the Amador/Calaveras/Tuolumne territory, either in person or virtual.

She has had some very difficult calls that required extensive research and calling of different agencies to validate a call and damage to help a client. I can recall a few calls that it took her almost three days of continuous work to be able to validate the call and to verify residency since all the client’s belongings were destroyed in the fire.

She has handled so many unique calls and issues with intake and has worked through them to make sure the client or clients were provided services that they needed.

Carolee is always caring and compassionate to the clients and her co-workers. We are so fortunate to have her on our team, and many clients have expressed how grateful they were for all that she did for them.

Did you know that Carolee had wanted to play with abstract painting for over 30 years, and when she finally realized that she could actually sell her artwork, Carolee decided that that would be a nice way to work part-time? She’s now been painting for just over one year and has been having a blast creating beautiful and colorful artwork.

Want to join us? Visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Red Cross Month 2022: Reflections on a DAT call Eight Years Later

By Heath Wakelee, Volunteer

I’ll never forget the little guy looking up at me and with almost tears in his eyes, looking first to his father for approval and then back at me (after his father had nodded OK) to accept the Mickey Mouse doll that I had offered.

The little guy looked back at me, now with tears in his eyes and mouthed, “Thank you.” 

I almost lost it. Even today, that memory impacts me every time I think about that family and their kids.

It was a dark, cold and windy night in January. The single-family home was at the top of the property and it was still burning when our Disaster Action Team arrived.

The family (mother, father and two small children) were huddled on the wet grass in front of their home. A neighbor sat nearby with some paintings and photographs that he was trying to dry off and salvage after they were removed from the home.

That event took place over eight years ago. I hope those kids remain warm and safe.  I still think about them and wonder how they are doing. I think that I always will.

There was not much for us to do until the family started thinking about their recovery. The two kids were about three and five years old. Because of their age, they were not really able to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Their home was being destroyed.  The only thing that they really understood was that their toys were “gone.”

If you are interested in volunteering with your local Red Cross Disaster Action Team, click here.

You can also support the Red Cross by making a financial contribution or supporting our BASH virtual auction and event later this month.

Introducing Gold Country’s New Senior Disaster Program Manager

By Michelle Hogue, Communications Volunteer

All the way from Ohio, welcome our new Senior Disaster Program Manager, Doug Fee!

Doug comes to us with a large family which includes his wife, six kids (three boys and three girls) and a grandson. This includes two sons currently serving in the United States military.

Before joining the California Gold Country Region, Doug served as Disaster Program Manager (DPM) for the Northern Ohio Region. Looking for the opportunity to expand his career, Doug could have moved into the Senior DPM position in Ohio, but he had come out to California to serve as the interim Senior DPM from August to October 2021 and discovered “this place has everything.”

He is currently based in Sacramento, serving the eight disaster territories of the California Gold Country Region.

Doug has had experience working in disasters of all kinds. He has participated in hurricane and wildfire responses, and nuclear power plant hazardous materials (HAZMAT) planning – with Ohio having multiple nuclear power plants. With that, he has been a part of detailed planning in many areas of disaster response.

When asked what his favorite job responsibility is, without hesitation Doug said, “Mobilizing volunteers” and “the workforce engagement function.” The ability to engage and support volunteers is both rewarding and enjoyable for him. He is passionate about training DPMs to better engage, support and keep volunteers.

We look forward to getting to know, working with, and learning from Doug!

Have a question for Doug? You can reach him at doug.fee@redcross.org.

California Gold Country Region Looks Back at 2020

UPDATE: Camp Fire Grant Recipients: Where Are They Now?

After the 2018 Camp Fire, The American Red Cross California Gold Country Region was able to award more than $10 million in grants to a select group of non-profits in Butte County to help them continue to serve the wide array of needs presented by Camp Fire survivors.

All funding for the grants was made possible thanks to the generosity of our donors.

As we mark the second anniversary of the Camp Fire we are looking back at the six grant recipients to see what they have done with the funding provided by the Red Cross: Youth for Change, United Way of Northern California, Hope Worldwide, Habitat for Humanity Butte County, Caring Choices and the Boys and Girls Club of North Valley.

This post will be updated daily so check back throughout the week!

Reflections on Camp Fire’s 2nd Anniversary: Volunteer Cynthia Bellina

On this 2nd anniversary of the Camp Fire in Butte County, we remember the more than 80 lives lost and the thousands of people Red Cross volunteers served.

Check back here this week as we will be revisiting stories of survivors, volunteers and the local agencies supported by the Red Cross so that they may continue to care for Camp Fire survivors in the months and years ahead.

Today, we look back at disaster spiritual care volunteer Cynthia Bellina who forged a strong connection with one evacuee who called her “my voice, my angel.”

Registration Open for Drive Fore Disaster Relief Golf Tournament Benefiting the American Red Cross

Once again our partners at Rancho Murieta Country Club are hosting Drive Fore Disaster Relief, a golf tournament to benefit the American Red Cross!

Funds collected will benefit local Red Cross disaster relief and preparedness efforts.

There is still time to register so contact RMCC at the number or email addresses below. Hope to see you there!

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Wildfire Evacuee Thanks Red Cross Volunteers: ‘U Have No Idea’

By Stephanie Gaito, Volunteer

On Monday night, August 17, Margaret Grant received an after-hours call from her insurance agent. Evacuation warnings had been issued for the North Complex fires near Susanville, but she was waiting for more information.

Once the phone rang, Grant knew the call from her agent must be urgent, and she was correct. The agent urged her to immediately evacuate the home she shared with her fiancé and parents. Their property was in danger as the fire rapidly headed in their direction.

Grant and her fiancé, Rick Duckworth, moved six years ago to rural Susanville from Southern California to help her parents care for their family home and surrounding property. That Monday when they were evacuated, her family’s safety was the main concern. As each family member headed to a safe destination, her worries were put to rest.

“As long as my parents are safe with my brothers, Rick and I would have slept in our car and done whatever we needed to do,” Grant said.

Grant and Duckworth used their own resources to cover the expense of staying two nights at the Diamond Mountain Casino in Susanville. They didn’t want to bother anyone or use resources for others in need.

“At that point, it has been over two days, and we had pretty much run out of funds” she explained. “We didn’t know what we were going to do. Later that day, a lady called and asked if we had eaten, and at that point we hadn’t,” she explained through tears. “She called and took care of our food and she has called and checked on us every single day since.”

The woman who called Grant was a Red Cross volunteer, and she Textmade sure to take care of the family’s needs. The Red Cross assisted by covering additional nights at the hotel and by providing meal tickets and vouchers to Grant and her fiancé so their stay was as safe and hassle free as possible.

Grant and her family had made considerable efforts to protect their home from wildfire, including maintenance of defensible space and adding fire suppression tanks to the property. When asked if there was anything she would recommend to those looking to protect their homes, maintaining well equipment was high on her list. She said to make sure all equipment has been serviced and maintained to ensure sufficient water pressure, as this could save your home.

“I’m just grateful for the firefighters up here. Between the Red Cross and the firefighters, we would have lost our house if it wasn’t for them.”

If you would like to support Red Cross disaster relief efforts, visit redcross.org.

CA Gold Country Region Welcomes DPM Andrew Bogar

AndrewAndrew Bogar recently arrived from Alaska where he was the Disaster Program Manager for Juneau and Southeast Alaska for 4 1/2 years.

He joins the California Gold Country Region as the DPM for Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

He has worked very closely with tribal, government, and not-for-profit partners to build capacity to prepare, respond, and recovery from disasters in Alaska, ranging from wildfires to earthquakes.

Before coming to the Red Cross in 2014, Andrew served in the Alaska National Guard, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.

Welcome, Andrew!

Gold Country’s Victoria Donoso Reflects on Puerto Rico Quake Deployment

By Nick Blasquez, Red Cross Volunteer

PR1Four months after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory continues to experience serious seismic activity – the latest a 4.2 magnitude quake on March 30.

This latest quake hit during a month-long curfew enforced to curb spread of the coronavirus.

The January earthquake left an estimated PR87,500 residents displaced. For American Red Cross Senior Engagement Specialist Victoria Donoso, the need for disaster assistance was too urgent to ignore.

It had been over 100 years since Puerto Ricans had experienced an earthquake of this magnitude. Houses made of cement to withstand hurricanes were defenseless against the tremors of a shaking earth.

“In this case, the biggest issue is the fear. People were fearful to go back into their homes, so they lost everything and just had to start again,” Victoria said.

PR7She deployed to San Juan after being requested for the job by name. Her role was three weeks as assistant director of workforce, only one of two trained for disaster assessment and emergency assistance.

On the front lines of the natural disaster, a unique challenge she faced was navigating the waters where Red Cross services met Puerto Rican governance. Sheltering and feeding was being done by the local government, providing services to only 2,000 residents who secured a place within the shelters.

PR6“People that were being counted were only those staying in government shelters, but the reality is there were encampments everywhere with sometimes hundreds of people who had never had anybody come out there to help them, yet.”

The primary role of the American Red Cross during this disaster was supporting the local government shelter efforts, but the undocumented encampments is where help was needed most.

PR5“Working with government agencies, they would notify us, ‘Hey, there’s an encampment of 80 people here. We need to get services to them,’” said Victoria.

She and her team of local volunteers traveled in vans to provide individual disaster care to those most in need. Water for those trapped under debris and so much bug spray to battle swarms of tropical biting insects. She would assess the encampments, reporting back on the condition of those present, especially those disabled and unable to seek shelter without assistance.

PR4Victoria had visited San Juan back in 1995, checking out the most populous, tourist-friendly areas of the city. This time around was different, experiencing the remote and devastated places few Americans will ever see, she was out in the jungle assisting people living in tents among piles of rubble.

Her personal takeaway? The resilience of the Puerto Rican people: always polite, generous, happy, and warm. “Very loving and very welcoming, I think this speaks a lot to the way they are going to handle the recovery process and the way they are going to persevere.”