John Day resident Jim Spell recently returned from South Carolina where he was managing and working in relief shelters, providing aid to those affected by Hurricane Matthew.
Spell rotated through four Red Cross shelters, two of which he managed, in schools and a detention center. The shelters provide people with basic necessities, food, clean clothing and a place to sleep.
The parts of South Carolina Spell visited did not receive the brunt of the storm’s force. Spell dealt with flooding, rain and displaced people but wasn’t exposed to some of the destruction seen in other areas affected by the storm, he said.
Spell began volunteering with the Red Cross in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. Since then, he has volunteered on the Canyon Creek Complex fire, the Chimney Fire in California and other disasters.
When a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster is declared, more resources become available, something Spell said is enormously helpful. During his time working with the Red Cross, he has encountered language barriers and sometimes high expectations of people being served by Red Cross. He says sometimes people expect them to rebuild houses, drain flood waters and put out fires.
“We are the first point of providing safety and the first step towards recovering,” Spell said.
He said he volunteers because sometimes it’s the only way things can get done.
“People just have to step up to provide those services to people,” he said. “I think we have a calling, a calling to help people in need, so that’s why I do Red Cross.”