How do you involve yourself in your community? : LUSENET : Going Nowhere? Community : One Thread

I'm always curious what kind of involvement people have with their community. Tell me what you do and how it is important to you. I volunteer at several local arts organizations and it makes me feel at home and apart of a larger groups future.


-- walter (, May 08, 1998


My experience with the ARC (American Red Cross) was a great adventure for me. It was a challenge with lots of opportunity to learn new things, meet interesting new people, see new and different places and most of all, to be of help to others. I'm now a member of the DSHR ( Disaster Services Human Resources) for national disasters as well as the local DAT(Disaster Action Team).

I finished the basic classes required at 10:30 PM Wed Nov. 5th. The next day I put in my application and Friday, our disaster chairman called with an assignment, So Central KS 11/98 Flood. He gave me the number to call to book my flight as soon as possible and a number to confirm with Red Cross that I was coming. Saturday, he met me to give me what I'd need such as a ARC official vest, name tag, cash advance for travelers checks, other numbers and instructions like what to where and bring. Sunday morning, the 8th, Jack drove me to Burlington for a 7:30 Am flight on United for Wichita via Chicago. When I arrived in Wichita in the late afternoon, I called the number I was given to contact ARC staffing for further instructions. They said, "Here's your confirmation number, go pick up a car from Avis and come on into head quarters (HQ) at the chapter building at 707 S Main.2 He gave me some quick complicated directions. I later learned that he came from Iowa! Armed with the confirmation number, Avis gave me a new Mazda 626 key, a space # where I'd find it and a map of Wichita. Thank God for the map and Sunday afternoon. The Iowa man's directions were crazy. When I got to HQ for In- processing I found that I'd missed the orientation sessions and pretty much everything else. I was welcomed warmly and quickly sent off with the car by myself for a service center (SC #4) an hour and a half south in Arkansas City near Oklahoma. They said " A word to the wise, do not pronounce it like the state, here we say Our KANSAS with the emphasis on the KANSAS like the river.2 Later I called it ARK City like the locals, even the PO. No one seemed to be able to give me directions how best to get there as the local volunteers had left. It was now dark! They finally hunted up an other map of KS. They sent me off with an apology, "we don't usually send people off alone but they are counting on you tomorrow.2 They wrote down the name and address of the motel and the name of the coordinator to call, Maria Esponoza, and let her know I was there. I felt like I was on a mystery ride and was very brave. I fortified myself with KFC in town before heading out through the hinterlands. I stopped to ask questions once when I was almost there. I found it! Hurrah, I was so proud of myself,mighty relieved I have to admit and very tired. After calling Maria, it was after 8PM and I had to be ready for an early morning. I thought 6AM probably but I hadn't counted on what an early bird Maria was. She was long gone. I asked the desk clerk for the ARC disaster center. She gave me directions to a Moose Hall "south of town, I haven't been there, I know they aren't open yet." After breakfast, I decided I'd better try to find it. I found the river that overflowed and went south to the middle of nowhere. When I crossed into Oklahoma I decided I'd better ask. ( I set foot in OK for the first time). I went back a mile and found the Moose Hall. There were no signs of ARC. Guess I got a bum steer. Just then a man dressed in cowboy boots and hat and jeans driving a big pickup truck came. In his southern drawl, he told me to follow him. It was the American Legion Hall which was clearly marked as a disaster center. They were glad to see me when I arrived. I was immediately put to work.

ARC has many functions and positions. They start you out with an overview and basic classes in damage assessment, mass care, and family services which is pretty basic to their services especially locally where actually you may have all the functions rolled up into one. I was assigned to family services (FS). The first week I was a casework interviewer working with the people coming into the center for our help. As the worked slowed down in that center, I was transferred to another center which was still very busy. Augusta was 30 min. east of Wichita. There I was sent out to do outreach and home visits. We made sure that nobody that had a home damaged was missed. This was my favorite job. Lastly, I worked out of the HQ following up with people who called in to our ARC Hotline and needed to have a home visit or some kind of follow up. I liked going out to where the flooding occurred and working with people there. The policies and procedures which are standard all over fill a jumbo size notebook. Basically, ARC works with the community to met the people's immediate needs and help them to start to get back to normal. We as caseworkers act as advocates in their behalf. In the beginning that means food and shelter, medicines, glasses etc., 2 basic sets of clothing, hygiene kits, diapers, cleaning supplies etc. Later comes the more complicated needs, like temporary housing, beds, table, some appliances etc. We have to verify that they actually lost them and only give them vouchers to take to a merchant when they have a place to use them. We guide them toward getting FEMA applications in and plans for their recovery. Sometimes work clothes and tools are lost and need replacement. We have to listen very carefully to what people think they need. Then we decide what ARC can do for them to meet the immediate their needs that we could justify and document before we went to the supervisor for approval to write vouchers or make referrals. We also had to keep up with the community resources were available. Each morning there would be a meeting to fill us in. The there was the clean up stuff that comes in 2 basic boxes; one is pail box with rubber gloves, sponges, disinfective, clorox, scrub brush, and trash bags. The second one is a long one with mop, broom and dust pan. They also went around giving out shovels and rakes. The ERVS (emergency response vehicles) went around serving meals, while the National Guard went around with bucket loaders and dump trucks picking up all the sad mess. We also had booklets to pass out to people about how to clean up their homes, make repairs, and some pointers to prevent, minimize, or protect themselves in the future. It kept me on my toes.

People seem to think that if the Core of Engineers hadn9t built the dikes and dams that broke there wouldn9t have been flooding. There were about 1400 homes affected by the flood with about half of them falling into the major or destroyed category. My heart went out to them. Some very sad, no deaths however. Mucking around your house cleaning up when the water has been as high as 5 feet is definitely no fun! It was obviously small potatoes compared to Puerto Rico and Central America. But to some families that had to clean up and start all over again it was the pits!

I came home the 21st after two weeks. Jack met me. Sarah and Barry were waiting with a nice dinner for us before we returned home. Despite long active days or maybe because of them, I felt fine, my back was fine as was my diabetes. I even lost a little weight which was good. It tells me that being more involved and less sedentary is a good thing for me. I want to take more classes in ARC functions. If it hadn9t been so close to the holidays I might have stayed on in Wichita to take them. I9ll probably have to go to MA or CT to take ones that we don9t have here. I9m eager and ready to go again when ever the disaster chairman calls.

Kristina McGinnis Berlin Vermont

-- Kristina Mcginnis (, December 21, 1998.

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