Volunteer Profile: Erica Welch – Disaster Action Volunteer

Our Volunteer Profile
series, written by communications volunteer Patrick Wilson, offers a
glimpse at some of the incredible people who help to deliver our mission. We are
grateful for their compassion and commitment.

It would
seem like being married, raising two children and having a full-time job would
keep a person fairly busy, but somehow Erica Welch also manages to contribute
considerable time to the American Red Cross. Erica has been a disaster action team
(DAT) captain for the past three years, is duty officer one week each month and
back-up duty officer one week each month.

Erica started out as a lifeguard at a
small town pool and then became a lifeguard instructor in 1991. She joined the Red
Cross Mother Lode Chapter in California in 1990 and transferred to the
Willamette Chapter in Salem, Ore., in 1991. She married and moved to Portland
in 1994, joining the Oregon Trail Chapter in 1994. Erica loves teaching, but
her heart is really in emergency services. This explains why she has been so
busy this summer helping the Red Cross to provide disaster relief for multiple fires
in the Cascades Region. Over the last several months she has been a shelter
manager or shelter supervisor for the fires in Goldendale, WA; and Grants Pass,
The Dalles, and McMinnville in Oregon,

Both Erica’s son and daughter
volunteer for the Red Cross and have for years. Erica believes their
volunteerism has increased her children’s maturity and sense of responsibility.
That makes it easier for Erica to be away from home for extended periods of
time. “They are self-sufficient and can manage well on their own,” says Erica. Her
daughter sometimes works in the Red Cross canteens, and both children help with
office work and warehouse cleanup when needed. The Red Cross has provided an
environment that helps with their maturation, increasing the children’s sense
of giving, and increasing their community awareness and participation in their

See a recent news clip of Erica in action.

Erica usually gets called
out several times a month to lead DAT teams who help assist families affected
by home disasters such as fires or floods. “A lot of our volunteers are
relatively new so they need some level of coaching until they get their feet on
the ground. Fortunately, they are always anxious to learn. Our objective is to
ensure when we leave a fire scene, people’s basic needs for food, shelter and
clothing are met. This can easily extend beyond the immediate situation. It
isn’t uncommon for some victims to be away on vacation or to turn to friends
for assistance, but later realize they need support from us. I know we’ve done
a good job at a fire scene when I get a hug before I leave the scene.”

 She sees our community partnerships
with agencies like Saint Vincent de Paul, the Oregon Food Bank, and the
Salvation Army as critical for providing a breadth of services when needed. She
appreciates that her children are curious about what caused the fires to which
she responds, and then the children spend time checking their home to make
certain likely causes are eliminated.

Erica says she continues to
be surprised at the number of people who are not aware of the scope of the
assistance the Red Cross provides. Most are only aware of our blood centers, first
aid/CPR classes and major disaster-relief work. Many are surprised to see us
show up at a fire. She encourages every volunteer to help educate the community
about the Red Cross.

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