Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On-Call With the American Red Cross On An Atypical Valentine's Day

by Lauren McMinn Clarke, volunteer contributor

It wasn’t a typical Valentine’s Day — for me, or for them…

I had woken up thinking about what to wear on my date with my husband that evening. They woke up in a strange place with only the clothes on their backs.

I was on-call that day to volunteer with the DFW Red Cross, so when I got the text at 8am that I was needed; I sprung into action, grabbing needed gear and supplies. I was paired up with a senior public affairs volunteer, Dan Halyburton. Dan and I drove to the site in East Dallas with our gear, not sure what to expect.

All we knew was that there had been a four-alarm fire in an apartment building, displacing dozens of families. The Red Cross had arrived during the night and found shelter for the residents for the evening.
The Red Cross responds to about 6 home fires
or other local emergencies in North Texas
every single day.
Upon arriving at the scene, we could see that one apartment building had been completely decimated by the fire. Weary looking firefighters were hosing water over the burnt out frame and the surrounding intact buildings. Dozens of bleary-eyed residents were standing around the perimeter of the scene, in their pajamas and no shoes, staring in disbelief. Some residents in the adjoining water logged building were now able to drag out their few possessions that weren’t ruined by the water, hastily stuffed into white garbage bags.

One young resident I spoke with had just moved into the apartment complex the week before. She was in her bathroom the previous night and started smelling smoke. When she went into her living room and saw that a wall was on fire, she ran out of the apartment immediately, taking nothing with her. She had no family nearby, she was afraid, in shock and exhausted.

Another women approached us asking for help from the Red Cross. Where could she and her family stay now? She had three young boys, and she had to get to work, she couldn’t lose her job. She was able to get the boys out the night before, but what now? She felt helpless, protective and panicked.

Thankfully, we were able to connect everyone that approached us that morning with our Red Cross Disaster Services team. The team sprung into action by arranging services to help them with their recovery.

As a volunteer this Valentine’s Day, I was able to witness first hand the compassionate power of the American Red Cross during a disaster situation. That compassion is tangible. During fires specifically, the American Red Cross provides shelter, clothing and food to affected families, supplying their most basic needs.

The compassion is also intangible and comes in the form of quiet listening, or in simple gentle statements such as, “I’m so sorry this has happened to you.”

It was a privilege to help my Dallas neighbors this past Valentine’s Day with the American Red Cross.

Red Cross disaster action teams (DAT) take on-call shifts to respond to emergencies in their local community 24/7/365. Here in North Texas, we respond to about 6 home fires or other local disaster a day. We're always looking for great volunteers willing to be on-call a few days a month to join DAT. To join, get started at


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