Kim Upham has a passion for the law, for animals, and for the American
Red Cross. She has worked as a lawyer for Bonneville Power Administration since
2009. While working full time she also volunteered for the Humane Society of
the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She assisted with
animal rescues and produced a film about the post-Katrina animal rescue effort
that is now in the Smithsonian museum and on Netflix. She still assists with
international relief efforts to spay and neuter street dogs and cats. After
returning from the Gulf hurricanes in 2005 she became a Red Cross volunteer.
The devastation left by the 9.1 magnitude South Asia earthquake and tsunami in
2004 (leaving 230,000 people dead in 14 countries) weighed heavily on her, in
part because she lost a friend and fellow Portland resident to the tsunami. In
spite of the demands of her job, Kim has volunteered for the Emergency Warming
Center for the past seven years, where she serves as a Public Affairs Incident
Responder (PAIR) and kitchen supervisor.
Kim says, “Most people don’t realize that more than 2,000 people sleep on the
streets of Portland nightly. When severe weather occurs, many of these people
face serious risk or death if they can’t find temporary indoor shelter.
It takes 35 volunteers to run our shelter each night.” During the most recent freezing
weather over 200 people were taken in. “My primary reason for supporting the Emergency Warming
Center is because of the practice of sheltering pets, whereas most shelters
will not accept pets. Homeless people with pets would be forced to stay outside
and face the menacing weather alongside their companions, or abandon them. At
our shelter we provide cages adjacent to where everyone sleeps. The fire
department often goes out to locate the less visible homeless and bring them to
the warming center.”
work of our chapter. Their coverage appeared on the nightly news and websites,
and on television the following days.. When people arrive at the shelter cold
and hungry, they are given hot beverages. Continuous hot coffee is a must and
30-40 gallons of coffee, broth and other beverages must be prepared prior to
Our communication department relies on our volunteer PAIRs to communicate the responses
generated by the Disaster Assistance Teams to the media. Likewise, if other
incidents occur after-hours that will be covered by the press, PAIRs can be
asked to meet them and provide the Red Cross story. Kim often reminds the press
of the role of the Red Cross and our need for contributions and volunteers to
continue our important work. Seeing these appeals during times of disaster generate
many of the donations we rely upon.
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.