Sunday, September 2, 2012

And The Beat Goes On....


...If I were home, I'd be spending the day with family, perhaps taking a boat ride out on the lake...or celebrating someone's birthday...or just hanging out and dining at our local Mexican restaurant. Fun times.'s now Day #9 on my deployment with the storm known as I'm not home. I'm in a motel in the town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, relaxing after finally getting a day off. My day was spent washing my clothes at a local laundromat, giving myself a long-overdue mani/pedi, and giving my very-neglected Kindle some much-needed attention. Fun times.

Tomorrow, it's back to work...and a typical day here has consisted of the following:

I'll head to Headquarters around 7:15 am, being grateful that I'm not a manager on this deployment, as managers must arrive at 6:30 am. Ugh.

After arriving at HQ, I'll park in a MASSIVE parking lot, along with 300+ other rental cars, 86 ERV's, and numerous box and semi trucks. We've set up temporary headquarters at an empty office/warehouse complex, and it is HUGE.

Making my way through the 800+ people that are now arriving at HQ, I'll fight my way back to the back corner, which is where my area, Logistics, is located. I have a work area with a laptop and just enough space to spread my elbows before bumping into my co-workers next to me. It's already warm - the air conditioner is not working in this building, so we've set up about 50 box fans that are already humming and whirring, which creates some relief, but also creates a tremendous noise....

At 8:00 am, all 800+ of us head into what was probably once a cafeteria, to attend the All-Staff Meeting held every morning. Our Operations Manager, otherwise known as the Head Honcho, will give a brief update on what we accomplished the day before, and what today is expected to bring. It's standing-room only, with every conceivable inch of space taken, and one must strain to hear what the OM is saying, as 800+ people whisper and hum with anticipation of the day.

After the meeting, it's time to get to work...and work for me consists of receiving requisition requests and entering them into a special software program in my laptop. These requests come in from all over the state of Mississippi, and can consist of something as simple as a request for First-Aid kits - or as complicated as meals for 6,000 people. Once the request is entered into the software, I then need to get that request to the right person to honor it...and that will change, depending on the request. When I'm not doing this, I'm trying to get receipts for stuff received, and matching them up to the original request.

While I'm doing this, we have hundreds of volunteers doing other things...such as working in Staffing, to insure that all ARC volunteers have checked in, have lodging, and have assignments....There's Transportation, who issue rental cars to those who need them...There's Damage Assessment, who send out teams of volunteers across the state, who literally walk from home to home, assessing the storm's damage...There's our Computer Gurus, who insure that our laptops are not only working properly, but are connected to printers and such...There's Health Services, who send out teams of nurses and mental health nurses throughout the state to insure that Mississippi residents are getting the care they need after the storm...There's the Warehouse crew, who empty out semi-trucks and reload ERV's with supplies and food to be given to the people of Mississippi... There's the Sheltering people, who go out and open shelters so people have a roof over their heads...there's the Feeding teams, who go and make sure everyone has access to food...and there's Public Affairs, Government Liason, Fundraising, Security...the list goes on.

These are just but a few of the many areas that are at a Headquarters...all scurrying about, doing an intricate dance in tight spaces so as to not bump into each other while we rush, rush, rush.

Soon, whispers of "Lunch is here!" will be heard, and we'll fight our way to the Kitchen area, to grab a bite to eat...usually taking our plate right back to our work area, so as to not interrupt our progress.

Plunging ourselves back into work, the afternoon will rush by...I might be making phone calls, to clarify a particular request...or I might be visiting an area in person to get a required signature...or I might be hashing out an issue with several co-workers, as we try to come up with the best solution to a potential problem. Sometimes, I see an old friend whom I've not seen in a year ot two, and time will be spent with hugs and catching up. I've seen friends from Joplin, from Hurricane Ike, Hurricane's a running joke that the American Red Cross is a giant family and every disaster brings another family reunion.

Around 6:00 pm, whispers of, "Dinner is here!" will make their way back to my area, and I'll make my way back to the kitchen to grab a bite. And eat it at my table. Working yet some more.

At 7:00 pm, my boss will come in and chase us all out for the day....and we all stagger out into the massive parking lot, each of us trying to remember where we parked our cars some 11 hours previously...and we crawl back to our motel room...ready to get some rest and start it all over tomorrow.

And we're volunteers. We chose to do this. We chose to leave our homes and families behind, to come down here, possibly sleep on cots in a crowded staff shelter, working 11+ hour days, so that we can help others and make a difference after Mother Nature unleashed her fury on our neighbors. I'll be honest - there are certainly times when I ask myself, "Why do I continue to DO this??!!" And yet...I know why I do. Because I can. And because it's needed.

I come home beat...exhausted...and sometimes frustrated. But. I'll be right back at it. Tomorrow.

But today? I rest. In my own unique way.


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