It started last Sunday the 15th, with 30 Red Cross volunteers arriving at Dominican University of California in San Rafael, from all over the U.S. By Thursday, there were over 150 committed people sheltering in the Conlan Recreation Center on campus, sleeping on cots at night and working 12-hour shifts at evacuation shelters throughout the north bay area during the day.
The staff at the University set up the cots and prepared for the arrival of volunteers.
Conlan Recreation Center is a great location for a shelter with locker rooms, plenty of showers, and its convenience to the University cafeteria. Epicurean, the University food service, donates breakfast every morning to anyone who wants it. While some volunteers rented cars, you will see many Red Cross disaster vans in the parking lot ready to carry these volunteers to their day’s work.
“It’s a great thing for us to be able to do something to help. Providing this shelter reinforces two of our Dominican values: community and service,” said Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations. “This fire impacted everyone in the North Bay Area in some way or another. The Red Cross shelter sets an example for our students of how to connect with a community and do good work.” Dominican University has also been collecting toiletries and bedding for fire victims.
Al, Sharon and Karen ate their breakfast Thursday morning in the cafeteria before leaving for their day’s assignment at a shelter in Fairfield. They don’t know where they’ll be sent tomorrow.
Karen, who lives in Rocky Mount, NC signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer a year ago, when Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the east coast. She was put to work the next morning and says “It was probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” In spite of working full time, she is still volunteering. In North Carolina there is a law requiring employers to give employees time off for deployments.
Sharon refers to disaster response as “organized chaos” and explains that “everyone has a part to play and our job is to do our little part.” In Memphis, where she lives, her most common deployment is for house fires. She flew to Orlando, where she and Al picked up a Red Cross disaster van which had been used in the Irma response, and drove to California.
Al hails from Knoxville, Tennessee and, though retired, he was a volunteer fireman for many years. His experience and calm around fires and disasters is useful. He just wants to help. “Everybody in the U.S. is the community. We all have to come help.” These are examples of the many people who left their homes and families to help our neighbors. Now they are our neighbors too.
Thank you Red Cross and Dominican University of California!!
Learn more about how you can prepare for a disaster on our Plan and Prepare page!