Tuesday, April 14, 2015

National Volunteer Week Profile: Eric Klein

by David Warren, volunteer contributor

Volunteer Eric Klein is presented with a commendation award
for his excellent service.
Every office has that go-to person who makes the day hum. When a problem crops up – be it a computer that swallows valuable disaster assessments or a complex data set that requires analysis – this colleague usually has the solution.

And so it is with Eric Klein, a volunteer partner for the American Red Cross North Texas Region.  He can be found huddling over maps, coordinating disaster services and, as he explains it, utilizing “geospatial tools.”

But for his supervisor, Rosemary Mote, disaster program officer, American Red Cross North Texas region, Klein’s importance is much more broadly defined. “Everyone knows to ask Eric,” she said. “He’ll know, or he can find out.”

Klein, 64, began volunteering for the Red Cross in 2008, answering a call to help with preparations ahead of Hurricane Ike’s arrival on the Gulf Coast. He had spent 30 years with IBM but was restless in retirement and the Red Cross proved to be an ideal outlet for his energy and analytical mind.

“There’s a lot of different roles you can take on,” he said of the agency. “It’s a big organization so there’s a lot of different work you can do, a lot of opportunity to learn new things.”

Klein uses Geographic Information Systems and other applications to plan for impending disasters while coordinating needs both regionally and beyond. He determines tornado paths, road conditions and other hazards to smooth the aid the Red Cross provides. He also serves on the regional Disaster Management Team and works as a disaster services instructor, passing on his experience to others.

“He passionately supports the mission by supporting those who are on the front lines,” Mote said of Klein, recipient of the 2014 North Texas Region Clara Barton Honor Award.

She said he also uses census information to determine population, housing and other demographic information to help determine how damaging a disaster may prove to be, and better assess the relief that will be needed.

“We just count on Eric being around and know that he will do it for us,” she said.

Most recently, Eric joined the Digital Volunteer Team, using his skills to help set up complex keyword searches on Radian6 so digital volunteers can monitor social media conversations during disasters and relay relevant information to a disaster response team. It's just one more use of the wealth of his knowledge and generosity of his time.

Klein, who’s a Dallas resident, says he brings an analytical approach to his work and the Red Cross benefits from many others who offer a variety of strengths.

“What makes the organization work is not having people with identical skills but different complementary skills,” he said.

This National Volunteer Week, we salute volunteers like Eric that make our organization go. Volunteers make up more than 90% of the Red Cross work force. Join Eric & start your Red Cross story today. Visit RedCross.org/Volunteer to get started! 

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