Local Red Cross volunteer Sherry Fagner returned home last Friday, after spending two weeks working as the supervisor of a staff shelter in Beaumont, Texas. Sherry is the sole Lead Disaster Action Team member for Pulaski and Starke Counties. She is also a longtime Red Cross volunteer who has assisted in past natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, the Henryville tornadoes and the 2016 floods in South Bend.
While in Texas, Sherry used her experience to assist fellow volunteers. She described that her responsibilities included ensuring that staff came back to a clean, comfortable facility after being out in the field. She acknowledged that it is important for staff to be taken care of to guarantee they are able to perform at their best ability in the potentially dangerous, unsanitary and emotionally exhaustive conditions in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
On any given day, she said there were generally around 120 volunteers in the shelter. However, since volunteers get moved around quite a bit, she said over a 10 day period she saw well over 800 different faces and met individuals from nearly every state across the country. She said members of the Mexican Red Cross were also on the scene, and both organizations were able to learn a lot from one another.
Sherry said she will be heading out on another deployment in the near future but she has yet to receive her orders. A piece of advice she has to individuals interested in providing assistance is to go to redcross.org and register under the volunteer tab. Red Cross provides a variety of online and in-person training classes that can help prepare you for natural disaster relief. Before heading out for the first time on a national deployment, try volunteering locally to be sure you know what is in store and what type of protocol would be expected during larger relief efforts.