Monday, August 11, 2014

RV There Yet? The Road Traveled for Disaster Relief

By Lisa Morgan, American Red Cross Communications Associate

If you’re a nature-loving, cross-country driving, general enthusiast who packs up and goes on a moment’s notice, then the American Red Cross has a place for you with Escapees RV Club. Instead of being deployed by plane, train or automobile, they are deployed via RV’s as a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees (DOVES).

John & Anita Laffey, Red Cross volunteers

DOVES have been advancing and supporting the Red Cross mission since its inception –when Escapee RV Club members rushed to the impacted areas on the Eastern seaboard to help those impacted by the events of September 11, 2001.

DOVES have only one mission:  to support American Red Cross disaster services by:

1) Recruiting Escapees RV Club members for Red Cross Disaster Services
2) Assisting DOVE members in obtaining training as Red Cross disaster operations volunteers
3) Providing DOVE members with timely information about Red Cross disaster relief operations
4) Providing volunteer assistance to the Red Cross whenever and wherever practical

Earlier this summer the Club hosted its 54th Annual Escapade, an RV rally where DOVES leadership team recruited for new members to add to the over 200 members on the roster. Additionally, DOVES coordinated a blood drive and provided a Red Cross Training Institute to train other DOVES at the Elkhart, IN chapter. The courses provided were shelter operations, forklift class, bulk food distribution, client case work and psychological first aid. The class with the highest attendance was the forklift class, with Dallas chapter volunteer instructor, John Laffey. CROWN Forklift generously donated a brand new forklift to for use in the five hour course.

“I teach them how to stack the pallets so that the contents don’t spill and the load has even distribution,” said John. “One of the things they learn is that if they can’t see over their load they need to operate the lift in reverse or moving backwards so they can safely see where they are going.”

“The DOVES can be viewed as gems hidden around the country”, said Mahlon Stacy, vice president of DOVES. “While some DOVES are new to Red Cross, many DOVES bring both life experience and Red Cross experience to the game. They will be valuable assets to the Red Cross in times of disaster.”

DOVES are not only valuable resources during national disasters, they are also valuable resources during blue sky times.  They can provide support for:

  • Local disasters
  • Community events (blood drives, community fairs, etc.)
  • Replace local members out on vacation or unavailable for other reasons
  • Administrative tasks or any other short-term projects while they are in the local chapter area
  • Instructors who can teach basic or advanced level classes.

“DOVES love to assist Red Cross chapters in any way that is needed,” said Anita Laffey, president of DOVES.  “If one of us is traveling through your area, we’ll cheerfully empty trash cans, clean cambros, make phone calls—we’ll even bake chocolate chip cookies for you!” Anita goes on to say that DOVES are here to serve. “If Red Cross chapters will let us know what they need, we’ll do our best to help them.Whether we are helping to run a shelter in a huge disaster like Hurricane Sandy or teaching Client Casework at a local chapter, we love to support Red Cross disaster services.”

Anita is excited as she enters her term as president of this unique group of disaster responders. DOVES have the distinction of being deployed while maintaining all of their creature comforts. “We’re kind of like turtles carrying our homes with us,” she said.

For more information on how to join the American Red Cross as a DOVE, please email:

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