Our Volunteer Profile
series, written by communications volunteer Patrick Wilson, offers a look at some of the incredible people who help to deliver our mission. We are
grateful for their compassion and commitment.
It can be pretty draining to spend your days managing the energy of young people. Regardless, volunteering evenings and weekends, working with other adults and supporting the Red Cross in your community can actually have a calming effect, even if you are sometime engaged in disaster relief. Theresa Babler, a Southwest Washington Red Cross volunteer, certainly lives that life. She has been a full-time school counselor since 1991, working with children in grades 5 to 8 at Goldendale Middle School. In 2011 Theresa happened upon the Red Cross responding to a fire in Goldendale, WA. She was impressed by the role of the disaster action team and how they assisted victims, and was moved to want to help people in her community. Before even joining her chapter, Theresa was impressed when trainers traveled more than 100 miles from Vancouver, to train her and the other new volunteers.
A short time later, Theresa was deployed to spend 15 days supporting wildfire relief in the western United States. She thought she’d be assigned to Montana but was told she would be going to Colorado. Only 24 hours transpired from her initial notification until her departure — not much time to get everything in order! One of the items she was told to pack was a good flashlight. She arrived at the staff shelter late at night to discover nearly 300 people in a very large room with only three empty cots left. These cots were visibly located under a tall powerful spotlight. As she lay struggling to fall asleep, almost blinded by the light, she started to giggle thinking, “I guess I really won’t need this flashlight tonight.”
Eventually the volunteers were assigned to two locations and Theresa performed client casework duties. During this experience, Theresa met a man who had recently completed building a new home. He applied for insurance two weeks before the fire set siege but was told he would have to clear a 50 foot perimeter. While scrambling to comply, the fire leveled his home, destroying everything. In spite of this, Theresa was amazed at the man’s positive attitude. He was already looking forward.
While in Colorado Theresa also had an opportunity to see how the Red Cross collaborates with other community organizations. The Southern Baptists were serving meals to hundreds of people. The Salvation Army was providing clothes and household items, plus emergency funds to qualified victims. The Seventh Day Adventist had like-new clothing they were distributing. The entire operation was located in a vacated Mervyns store at area nearby mall.
When it was time to return home to Washington, Theresa’s supervisor asked her and one other volunteer caseworker to support the transfer of their work back to the local chapter in Colorado. “It was amazing to see the operation move from such a grand scale, supported by 15 to 20 caseworkers, down to three and then relocated back to the local chapter in Fort Collins. Both the speed of the transfer and how smoothly it was accomplished was impressive.”