Volunteer Profile: Sharon Sebbio – Helping people case by case

Sharon Sebbio
attended nursing school in Oregon at what is now known as Oregon Health &
Science University and has dedicated the better part of her life to nursing.
She was a Navy nurse for 26 years, particularly enjoying her time spent in
Washington, D.C. In 2012 she moved from the Memphis area back to Oregon, her
state of birth. In 2013 she joined the American Red Cross as a volunteer.
Sharon is a casework lead, responsible for training incoming caseworkers across
the region. She also periodically volunteers to support the emergency warming
center and is a member of disaster health services. She provides liaison
between casework and health services, and has helped health services transition
to using CAS 2.0, the electronic case record system.

When local citizens are struck by
disaster, usually fires or floods, Red Cross disaster assistance teams provide
initial help, ensuring that clients’ most immediate disaster-related needs have
been met. This includes having a place to stay the night, food to eat, a change
of clothing, proper shoes, and in the winter a coat. Then caseworkers step in, usually
calling the following day, to assist the affected individual or family to
develop a recovery plan. If clients have insurance they may only need
assistance temporarily until their insurance company steps in, and some clients
have only minor damage and short-term needs.

During their initial calls,
caseworkers help clients determine their most pressing needs and options, and
identify potential resources. Resources range from family, friends and
co-workers to a variety of agencies. These resources include local food
pantries, sources for donated furniture and household goods, housing assistance
agencies, and other groups that can provide resources in a myriad of ways.
Often faith-based groups and sometimes service organizations in the local area
will also provide support. Once potential resources are identified, caseworkers
may provide written referrals to facilitate the process, but more often than
not it is the responsibility of the individual or family to contact the
resource entities and request assistance. “Some people are real warriors,”
according to Sharon, “and they approach getting back on their feet with gusto.”
However, sometime the clients are so affected by the disaster they have a
harder time transitioning to recovery mode. It’s the job of the caseworker to
try to meet them where they are and then to help them move forward.

The caseworker knows they have done a
good job when they can assist the client to get solidly back on their feet.
“While clients aren’t followed until they are in permanent housing, we know
we’ve done our job when they have a solid plan and are actively working that

Red Cross
caseworker volunteers are always needed. Good interpersonal skills and
attention to record keeping (computer and paper) are necessary. Volunteers may contact
Sharon or their local disaster program manager with questions about casework,
or apply for a disaster casework trainee position directly through Volunteer
Connection. Sharon says “Most of the required training is done online, but
one-on-one orientation in the office for a few days helps new caseworkers feel
more comfortable in the role.
typical caseworker spends about four to six hours a week doing casework. The
advantage of this work, according to Sharon, is the flexibility offered; volunteers
can schedule their shifts when it bests fits their schedule.

The work can be very rewarding,
because we provide a lifeline for people devastated by the unexpected.”

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