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.

Northern California Volunteer Shahadat Hossain Khan Balances Graduate School and Volunteering

Shahadat Hossain Khan is currently attending school to obtain his Master’s Degree in Computer Science.

He and his family are also business owners in Chico.

With his busy schedule as a student, business owner and father, Khan still finds the time to be a volunteer for the Red Cross.

We would like to welcome him as the newest Disaster Action Team Service Associate in the Lower Northern California Territory.

We would also like to express our thanks and appreciation for his service as a volunteer.

Thank you!

Congratulations to Deborah Harper – Recipient of the Ann Magunsen Nursing Award

 

Red Cross Nurse Deborah Harper

California Gold Country Region volunteer Deborah Harper has been awarded the 2021 American Red Cross Ann Magunsen Nursing Award.

 This award is presented annually to a volunteer or employed registered nurse who has made an outstanding contribution to strengthening or improving American Red Cross programs and services. It is the highest honor of individual nursing achievement in the American Red Cross.

“We value your work as the Nursing Network Regional Nurse Lead and your many Disaster Cycle Services volunteer positions. Your humanitarian spirit is reflected in your outstanding leadership, dedication and accomplishments,” noted National Nursing Committee Awards Chairperson Laurie Willshire.

In presenting the award, Red Cross Chief Nurse Linda McIntyre said, “Your humanitarian service has a far-reaching impact and I’m grateful that you share your time and expertise with the Red Cross.”

As expected, Deborah has received an outpouring of praise from our staff and volunteers. In an email she said, “I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to send congrats. It means a lot. I’m so fortunate to be a part not one but two amazing regions!!!”

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.

Resiliency, optimism in her “home away from home”

By Kim Mailes, American Red Cross public affairs volunteer

For Frieda Ingram, right now “home” is a cot in the American Red Cross emergency shelter in Reno, Nevada. Despite being evacuated from the South Lake Tahoe when wildfires approached her apartment, she’s all smiles and maintains a positive attitude. This is just another bump in a long road that’s been filled with obstacles.

“I’m so grateful for the Red Cross,” she said. “I know I’ll be safe here until this is over.”

Continue reading Resiliency, optimism in her “home away from home”

Joy in the midst of uncertainty

By Barbara Wood, Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer

It’s been more than two weeks since Josephine Hernandez and her six children had 30 minutes to pack their car and to evacuate the looming Caldor Fire, but on Sept. 1 as the family awaited news that they could return to their Pollock Pines home, the children joyfully played on a lawn at the Green Valley Church Red Cross shelter in Placerville.

Five of Josephine Hernandez’ six children cool off in a kiddie pool outside the room at the Red Cross shelter in the Green Valley Church in Placerville that was their home for more than two weeks as they awaited word that they could return to their home in Pollock Pines. They are (l-r) Adriana, 13; Briana, 13; Camille, 6; Daniel, 2 and Steven, 4. Photo by Barbara Wood/American Red Cross

Hernandez and her six children spent the first two nights after their Aug. 17 evacuation sleeping very close together in the family’s Suburban. Then they heard about the shelter that had been opened at the Green Valley Church in Placerville. After a few more nights in the church parking in two borrowed tents, the family was moved into a classroom at the church.

“It’s been terrible,” Hernandez said. “More than a challenge.”

Continue reading Joy in the midst of uncertainty

Volunteers and Staff of the California Wildfires – Part 5

The Faces of a Disaster Response Operation

By Catie Ballenger, American Red Cross Public Affairs

Trained American Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock in California to help people impacted by the massive wildfires which have forced whole communities from their homes. Who are these incredible people who generously give of their time and talent in the face of disaster? In this series, we will introduce you to many of them. For part one of this series, click here, for part two, click here, for part three, click here and for part four, click here.


Name: Dana Goldsmith

Home Region: Colorado and Wyoming

Deployment Focus: Disability Integration

Dana and her DI Team

Dana Goldsmith had deployed with the Red Cross 27 times. These deployments have taken her to two different countries and 11 states. She has provided care and comfort to those impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, volcanoes and beyond. Her most current deployment brought her to Sacramento California as the Disability Integration team manager.

When Dana is asked about the importance of Disability Integration, she gave an example from her latest deployment. “A California Wildfire evacuee with severe autism was having a tough time adjusting to life in a shelter. All his normal structures and supports were gone. He was combative, continuously tried to run away and was nonverbal and couldn’t communicate his stress. His guardians were exhausted. We worked together with disaster health and disaster mental health to get the child back in school. We contacted social services to get parent assistance and provided self-soothing and fidget tools to help him stay calm and comforted when he is in the shelter. My team could secure a private room for the family where they could ‘nest’ and create a comfortable space for all. The child and his family are all safely thriving in our Red Cross shelter because of the herculean effort from both internal and external partners!”

Volunteering has very personal roots for Dana.  She became a Red Cross volunteer and later an employee because her parents were evacuated from the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I watched my city come together in an amazing way to support each other. I wanted to be a part of that movement. I chose disability integration because I have a disability, my son has multiple disabilities and my husband has multiple disabilities. I spent a large part of my life advocating for them and a large part of my career learning to advocate for others. This work doesn’t feel like work. It’s what I’m meant to do!”

Dana has found family, not just friends, among her fellow Red Crossers. She encourages other volunteers to considered disaster deployment. “There’s nothing like this experience. It will be hard and confusing and feel chaotic and uncertain. But you will be stronger, smarter, better and more fulfilled than you ever have been. You will meet others along the way that struggle beside you, hold you up and teach you things. It’s a beautiful, life-changing experience that will change the course of your life for good.”

Name: John Mathews

Home Region: Missouri and Arkansas

Deployment Focus: Community Engagement and Partnership


As a retiree, John Mathews likes to travel. Often he and his wife will vacation to places he has previously deployed as a Red Cross volunteer “to see them at their best since I have seen them at their worst.”

John has volunteered his time and talent on nearly 40 Red Cross disaster relief operations. He became a full-time volunteer in 2012 when he retired. Now he deploys several times a year.

On his most recent deployment, the 2021 California Wildfires, John served on the Community Engagement and Partnership (CEP) team. “CEP is the part of Red Cross that provides network possibilities for our governmental and non-governmental partners. Not one organization has the resources or staff to provide help to every person affected in any disaster. CEP provides a platform for faith-based groups, such as Salvation Army or Southern Baptists, to provide resources to be used by the Red Cross, local, state or national response teams,” explained John. “CEP is a ‘Force Multiplier’ in that it adds value to everything that we do with other groups.”

John volunteers and works disaster response operations with the Red Cross because he can. “Many volunteers are trained but unable to deploy due to work or family obligations. I am trained, prepared and available, John said.

“I volunteer out of a sense of compassion for those who need the resources and personal touch that I can deliver. I feel that my whole life has led me to this moment. I am a composite of all my experiences. And I’m compelled to share what God has given to me to help others in times of need.”

John can still see the faces of those impacted by the California wildfires who have lost everything. He is proud that the Red Cross is in California to help.


Volunteers like Dana and John make up 90% of the Red Cross workforce, responding to more than 60,000 disasters every year. Large disasters like the California wildfires, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes are increasing in frequency and intensity. It’s critical to have a trained, ready volunteer workforce to make sure we can provide comfort and support to anyone who needs aid after a disaster. Join us to make a difference in our community and help someone in need after a disaster. Learn more at redcross.org/volunteer.

Reframing My Reality

August 25, 2021

By Catie Ballenger, American Red Cross Public Affairs

Sheri Cum-Alarcon is strong. She has needed to be strong her whole life but especially now that wildfires are threatening her home. When asked how she does it, she said, “I reframe the situation in my mind. I make a conscious decision to look for the positive and then I move forward. Sometimes the only way to get through a situation like this is to count your blessings.”

Sheri, her husband Chris, and her mother were evacuated from Happy Valley Ranch last week and have been staying at the American Red Cross shelter at Green Valley Community Church in Placerville, California, for nine days. Sheri is a caretaker for both her husband, who has epilepsy and her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

“Chris and Mom don’t go out very often and the thought of evacuating them was overwhelming. The Red Cross was able to put Mom in a special area with a medical-grade cot. She is very comfortable.”

Sheri brought the family’s medications but had to leave other critical medical items behind during the evacuation. Red Cross health services volunteers, who are licensed health care professionals, are on hand in Red Cross shelters to help provide or replace medications, supplies and equipment that may have been lost or destroyed during the wildfire. Because of this service, Sheri was able to replace items that both her husband and mother needed.

Many evacuees like Sheri and Chris choose to stay in RVs or tents outside of the shelter to remain close to their pets. They have access to hot meals, restrooms, showers and all other support that evacuees inside the shelters have access to.

“Chris, the dogs and I have a great space outside in the shade. Actually, our whole neighborhood is staying here,” Sheri said.

 “Even if the fire doesn’t destroy our house, there will be extensive smoke damage. I’m afraid that I didn’t close a single window before we rushed out. We will probably lose several hundred dollars of food from our freezers,” explained Sheri.

Happy Valley Road, the only way in and out of Sheri’s home, was closed and the power turned off because of the approaching Caldor fire. The house has not been destroyed, but it is in danger. “We are just waiting, waiting, waiting; waiting for good news; waiting for the bad news. Until then, I’m doing what I do at home, here at the shelter,” said Sherri.

The Caldor Fire continues to burn out of control and is threatening the heavily populated Lake Tahoe area. The fire has burned more than 126,000 acres, destroyed 637 homes and businesses, and is threatening nearly 17,000 additional structures. Red Cross disaster workers are helping California Wildfire evacuees find a safe place to stay, food to eat and emotional support.

Since June, Red Cross has provided more than 9,900 overnight stays for people in need and, with the help of partners, provided tens of thousands of meals and snacks, and distributed over 1,700 relief items including comfort kits, fire kits and other critical supplies.

“Things could seem really dismal right now, but I just keep reframing my reality to remind myself that things aren’t that bad. Happy Valley was our sanctuary and our home. Until we can return there, Green Valley shelter will be our sanctuary.”

Volunteers and Staff of the California Wildfires – Part 4

The Faces of a Disaster Response Operation

By Catie Ballenger, American Red Cross Public Affairs

Trained American Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock in California to help people impacted by the massive wildfires which have forced whole communities from their homes. Who are these incredible people who generously give of their time and talent in the face of disaster? In this series, we will introduce you to many of them. For part one of this series, click here, for part two, click here and for part three, click here.


Name: Terry Vollrath

Home Region: Gold Country

Deployment Focus: Mass Care with a Focus on Sheltering

Deployment Length: 23 Days

The Red Cross 2021 California Wildfire disaster response is very personal to Terry. He is local to the area, residing in Placerville California and has friends who have evacuated from their homes.

Terry is passionate about the work he does at the Red Cross.

“Sheltering is at the heart of Red Cross service delivery. We help reduce the stress on those affected by disaster by providing a safe place to stay and sleep, three meals a day, snacks, water, adequate toilet and shower facilities and access to other Red Cross services such as Disaster Health Services and Disaster Mental Health. But, sometimes, the most important part of my job is to sit down and listen to the shelter guests’ stories,” Terry said.

As a shelter manager, Terry is busy. He ensures that staff know what their job is, how to do it and have what they need to do it.  He assigns shifts, manages days off, sends in reports to headquarters. He attends meetings and works to address and solve issues as they arise throughout the day.

Terry deploys to disasters to give back to the community in times of need and stress.

“The Red Cross is an amazing organization of skilled volunteers from numerous walks of life. I’ve been able to meet some great people,” explained Terry.

“Please come and try it. You will never forget the experience, the look on a client’s face as you help them through an issue or provide for a need.”


Name: Patti Fogg

Home Region: San Diego

Deployment Focus: Disaster Health Services

Deployment Length: 9 Days

Patti Fogg’s experience as a Red Cross teen aide in high school can indeed be credited as one of the reasons she chose nursing as her career. First, she volunteered for 25 years, teaching CPR/AED classes. Then, after the pandemic hit, Patti began working as a disaster health volunteer.

Patti’s deployment to the California wildfires is her second deployment but her first virtual one.

“It was an excellent experience, especially working with a great, supportive team. It was fulfilling to help people get the medications and medical equipment they needed,” said Patti.

Patti loves volunteering for the Red Cross and has enjoyed her deployments. “Both times have been a very positive experience. I have made many friends and met so many wonderful people through the Red Cross. I encourage everyone to try volunteering. The Red Cross is an amazing organization and I know they will enjoy being a volunteer.”


Name: Jane Burke

Home Region: Northwest

Deployment Focus: Disaster Health Services

Deployment Length: 10 Days

After 42 years of emergency nursing, Jane Burke was not ready to give up her license. Volunteering with the Red Cross in Disaster Health services allows her to still nurse in disaster situations.

Jane was virtually deployed to serve those impacted by the 2021 California Wildfires from her home in Washington. “I was glad to help virtually. It worked for my family. But I do enjoy boots on the ground response,” said Jane.

While on her deployment, Jane was up early and on her computer every morning attending meetings via Microsoft Teams. She would then begin connecting with evacuees that may benefit from Red Cross health services. Jane explains that in addition to helping them replace medications and medical equipment, she would also be a resource to connect them to other services and organizations. In addition, Jane said, “much of my job was to listen. They needed to vent about the incredible loss and trauma they just went through.”

Jane encourages volunteers who are considering disaster deployment to be flexible.

“The first few days of a new disaster response operation can be chaotic as things are still getting set up. Then, in a few days, the team expands and the structure becomes better defined. It can be stressful if you like order. But, it is worth it.”


Red Cross disaster volunteers, like Jane, Patti and Terri are an important part of our team. Join us to make a difference in your community and help someone in need after a disaster. Learn more at redcross.org/volunteer.