My name is Nate. I live in LA, but recently traveled to NY for work. I landed right in the middle of the noreaster that followed up in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. Needless to say, the NY area was still reeling a bit, and even though the city was up and running, there was plenty of work to be done. I had a day free near the end of my trip so I signed up to volunteer with the city branch of the Red Cross. Signing up was easy enough. I had a couple different shifts that I could chose from, and all I had to do was get to the RC headquarters in Manhattan and they would bus me to where they needed me.
I arrived at the RC for the 930am-430pm shift on monday of last week. Veterans day. There was a couple dozen volunteers there eager to chip in. Everyone was greeted warmly and we were all excited to do our part. They loaded us onto a school bus and took us across to NJ where we all got right to work at the warehouse where moving trucks were being loaded up with supplies for the areas hit hardest. Immediately I was asked to go off into the warehouse with a 3 man crew to start labeling boxes so that the forklift operators could easily find specific items to move onto trucks.
After that I got in an assembly line passing supplies to be loaded onto the moving trucks. Everyone was in a great mood. The supervisors were all incredibly knowledgeable and concise. I was very impressed with how smooth of an operation it was. Believe it or not, the only real problem that I noticed was finding stuff for everyone to do. I was impressed by the level of communication that was going on. Everyone was kept pretty busy and was moving at a comfortable pace.
Lunch was great and everyone working for the RC was gracious and very appreciative. There were school kids, retirees, People on their day off and a soccer team that had showed up to help. It was a pretty good mix. At one point I heard a coordinator tell drivers that they couldn’t leave with some of the trucks we’d loaded, because to get to their destinations through traffic would take them too long and once they got there, the volunteers on site would be gone for the day. I’m sure in a relief effort like this, these types of problems pop up all the time, but I felt confident in these people. The new plan was to get the trucks out early the next day so that they would arrive first thing in the morning. The most reassuring thing was the level of trust that the drivers seemed to have in what they were being told. It was clear that they were all on the same page. Everyone seemed very focused. I definitely felt like I was in the right place to contribute. However small my contribution may have been.
Thanks to the Red Cross and to all the terrific volunteers I met last week. Not looking forward to the next time, but if and when we face more of this type of disaster effort, I know where I will be going to pitch in.