Doug is a United Way Volunteer. He is a coordinator and representative Disaster Services Program at American Red Cross. The Disaster Services program is run through volunteer efforts at Knox County’s American Red Cross and supported by the 2019 United Way Investment Agenda. The Disaster Services program develops a more resilient community with the long-term impact of Knox County households being better prepared to prevent, respond to, and recover from disaster. This is threefold: the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign reduces fire deaths by installing free household smoke alarms, on-call volunteers respond to Fire Department notifications and deliver resources on disaster sites, and clients are supported through recovery by advocates who serve as the coordinator to connect families until they return to stable footing after a crisis.
The Disaster Services program prepares for and responds to the unexpected. Imagine waking up to the smoke detector alarm blaring. Gratitude for safety competed with concerns over a damaged home, displacement, hunger. Then imagine that Doug arrives to the scene. He brings additional volunteers with him and fresh water and snacks for the firefighters and families. He offers comfort and will offer to make a trip out to bring anything from warm coffee to cold cut sandwiches. In a larger scale event, he might be driving the organization’s mobile disaster trailer, which is equipped for almost anything. Packed into the trailer are chairs and cots for seating and sleeping, a tent to serve as shelter, supplies to clean and sanitize. It even contains resourceful children’s activities, a thoughtful addition to comfort to families in crisis.
While Doug has over three years of experience volunteering, this is his first year leading the Disaster Services efforts. In that time, he has provided services at seven Knox County fires. Doug, like any caring community member, wishes that these disasters could be avoided, but he takes comfort in knowing the United Way and American Red Cross are partnering to provide this emergency relief and other critical programs. The program truly runs full circle: volunteers will install the smoke detector, arrive at the scene of a fire, and help clients rebound after disaster. Doug and volunteers like him serve as an intermediary for donations that way the person experiencing the disaster communicates with a single point person and is not burdened with repeating the same information to multiple agencies. Doug believed disasters call for a community response. He prefers to arrive to the scene with a group of volunteers. He says it is “nice to have multiple people for each family – then they aren’t waiting for you to talk and move on to the next person.” While fires are the most common disaster reported in Knox County, the services also respond to floods and snow emergencies.
Doug is just one of many volunteers at American Red Cross and is actively recruiting new volunteers as well. As a group, they join the other various volunteers of United Way of Knox County programs. We share his story and encourage you to share your own. By donating to United Way of Knox County’s Campaign, you will be supporting Disaster Services and the other local programs that United Way implements or invests in. Give, Advocate, Volunteer. LIVE UNITED.