(Image from here)
I'm back from the Jersey Shore...no Snookie sightings. No boardwalk sightings. Not even a beach sighting.
Such is the life of volunteering with the Red Cross.
I flew out on August 30th to Philadelphia, where I hopped in a rental car and drove east to Tinton Falls, NJ - considered to be part of the Jersey Coast, but a little bit of ways from any ocean or sand.
There, I worked in Red Cross Headquarters for several days - assisting in coordinating the ERV trucks (Emergency Response Vehicles - those things that look like ambulances used by the Red Cross) that drive in disasters to deliver food and water to people affected.
A couple of days in, the decision was made by the powers-that-be that we needed to move the ERV operation for better efficiency and delivery of service. They sent half the ERV crews up north to Morristown, NJ, and they sent me and the other half to Princeton, NJ.
In Princeton, I found myself the sole ERV Coordinator...a fleet of 10 trucks and 22 people (20 drivers and 2 "tag-a-longs").
My territory? All of central and southern New Jersey. Yikes.
My assignment? Feed the people affected by the flooding of Hurricane Irene.
Feed the people.
A typical day would be as follows:
Begin the day with Leadership meeting at Headquarters to debrief on the day before.
Meet with the ERV crews in the morning to assign feeding routes & discuss issues.
Handle 250 phone calls daily from:
...ERV drivers ("My truck is broke down." or "We're lost." or "The caterer doesn't have enough food for what we're supposed to deliver." or "We ran out of water." etc, etc.),
...Red Cross headquarters in Tinton Falls ("Do YOU handle Mercer County? Or is that handled by the Northern team?"),
...Red Cross headquarters in Morristown ("Are WE supposed to be handling Mercer County? Or is that YOU?"),
...police chiefs in various towns across New Jersey ("Are you coming today to serve food in my city??!"),
...Emergency Operations Managers in various towns across New Jersey ("Are you coming today to serve food in my city??!"),
...Red Cross Shelter Managers in various towns across New Jersey ("Are you coming today to bring food to my shelter???!"),
...and so on, and so on.
For every phone call I would actually answer, I'd hang up, only to find 3-4 voice messages that had come in during that time that needed to be addressed.
The phone was so attached to my ear that at one point, someone said, "You might as well put fertilizer on that phone, the way it's growing out of your ear."
Between the various phone calls, I would try to type up Daily Situation Reports, Route Reports, and Daily Counts. Each driver would report to me how many meals, snacks and water were served for lunch and dinner, and those totals would be reported to the Big Shots.
Before the end of each day, I'd try to get information on the status of electricity, gas and water in the towns. This would help me determine how much food I wanted the caterer to prepare the next day for my drivers to deliver. You always want to have enough for people that need it - but you don't want to waste donor dollars, either. It's a tricky thing....
I'd stumble back into my hotel room late each night - so exhausted that the simple act of trying to get ready for bed was enough to do me in.
No energy to write a blog. No energy to watch TV. Barely enough energy to call my family and tell them I loved them and was thinking of them.
I never even made it over to see the Princeton campus - which was only a paltry 3 miles away. Sad, huh?
I'd like to think, that in the overall scheme of things, that I did a good job. I know I certainly tried.
I put my heart and soul into providing the best service delivery plan for my drivers and the people of New Jersey. I know we fed thousands of people each day, either on the streets of towns called Bound Brook, Manville, Monroe, and Trenton - or in the shelters in Burlington and Raritan Valley.
I know that if I ever get an opportunity to visit a town called Cranford, New Jersey - that I will have to personally meet the Police Chief, Captain Baer, who I developed a pretty good relationship with via telephone after I personally saw to it that his people were assisted by the Red Cross.
I think, in the long run, that the accomplishments our team did far outweigh the frustrations and aggravations that popped up.
And I was just a very small cog in the humongous wheel of the American Red Cross.
This is going on...every day...continuously...in cities across the country, as various disasters occur.
Wildfires in Texas. Flooding in New Jersey and Vermont and New York. Tornadoes in Georgia and Alabama.
It never ends.
But, my journey has ended. I'm home now. Resting. Recuperating a bit. Trying to get caught back up on sleep and food.
And, of course, my very-neglected blog.