That's what time I roll out of bed, in preparation for the day ahead. Gah.
A lot of people have asked what I'm exactly doing here, volunteering with the American Red Cross - and so, I thought I'd share a typical day with you. Nothing majorly exciting, but certainly necessary, and always rewarding.
Hurricane Sandy struck the northeast coast in late October...and the ARC immediately mobilized forces in at least 10 states, up and down the coastal areas. Each state will assign it's own headquarters, as well as volunteers, and initially, I had been assigned to the Maryland operation - way, way back in October. Maryland cleaned up rather quickly, and I was re-assigned to New Jersey for two weeks, back in early November.
Eventually, I went home, but the operations in New Jersey continued, as well as operations in it's neighboring state, New York. When I came back out here in February, I was assigned to the New York operation. This means that everything I do - or give away - is given to - or done on behalf of - the people of New York.
For this particular assignment, I was sent to the warehouse...which just happens to be in Jersey City, New Jersey. However - everything in our warehouse goes to New York...so every time we leave our warehouse with the trucks, we head straight across the Hudson over to New York. Tricky, huh?!
A view of our warehouse...
Here at the warehouse, my specific job has been to do Inventory Control...it's very important that the folks back at NY Headquarters - which is in Manhattan, btw - know exactly how much supplies we have at the warehouse. Every day, I have to count - how many supplies came in, as well as how many went out - and I turn my report in to management by 3:00 pm each afternoon.
My work area...
One of the first things I did when I got here was organize the warehouse...of course. I wanted all "like" supplies together - and I then went around and labeled the products with large signs, which would help the warehouse crew when they needed to fill an order.
...or how about some buckets, to clean with??
Quite a bit of our supplies were donated to us by large corporations; for instance, we had thousands and thousands of cases of infant diapers, all donated by Kimberly-Clark. Headquarters will send us a requisition to deliver these diapers to a particular non-profit agency in New York, so they can be distributed - free of charge - to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.
These requisitions come in all day long...and we have a crew that drives around the 100,000-square foot warehouse in forklifts, picking up the requested products and loading them into several semi-trucks we have stationed nearby. Sometimes, if my counts are up-to-date, I'll assist in the pulling and loading of the trucks.
Once our trucks are loaded, we jump into them and head over to New York, maneuvering through the constant traffic, the bridges, the tunnels, the toll booths, the pedestrians, and the ever-present aggressive drivers that make this state so unique. Driving a semi-truck in the nation's largest - and most densely populated city - has been extremely interesting; streets are narrow, our trucks are long, and we've been extremely fortunate that we haven't wiped anyone - or anything - out. Yet. Knock on wood.
Once we (finally) arrive at our destination, we have the lovely pleasure (not) of unloading the trucks. We were able to use a forklift at the loading end; we usually aren't so fortunate to be able to use a forklift at the unloading end. It's normally done by hand - box by box, water case by water case. And that water is HEAVY!
Once our trucks are empty, and we've spent a few moments talking with the local people that we're serving, it's time to jump back in the trucks, fight our way back through the city, cross the Hudson, and come back home to the warehouse. Here - we start all over again, as there are most likely new requisitions that have been rolling in during the day.
Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
And meanwhile...I count. How many diapers? How many 1st-Aid kits? How many flashlights? Et cetera...et cetera...et cetera. Sometimes, I've no sooner counted a product when someone is coming in right behind me and moving it with a forklift...I often feel that my job is to count thousands of moving cats, which is pretty much impossible.
If we're lucky - and if we have time - we may get a bite of lunch. Sometimes not. It depends. And if we're REALLY lucky - we can get a bathroom break...as there's nothing worse than bouncing like a pinball in a giant semi, on extremely rough roads, when you are in desperate need of the facilities. I speak from personal experience. Ahem.
Our days begin at 6:30 am, when we report in - and end at 4:30 pm, if we're lucky and our routes are finished. At that time, we all drag ourselves out for a quick bite of dinner, head to our respective motel rooms, and crash. Exhausted.
Six days a week...over and over and over again...
I'll admit...it's not all work. Every day, our warehouse mascot, Miss Lucy, comes in with her owner to visit us and give us some much-needed attention...or perhaps, it's the other way around...??!!
She's a sweetie...
Although breakfast and lunch are provided for us, I keep a little stash of stress relief at my desk at all times:
Chocolate. Of course.
I was originally supposed to just put in two weeks on this deployment, but I've extended my time for at least another week, as we are SO close to cleaning out the warehouse. When I first arrived, this warehouse was stacked to the ceiling with donations - but we've really made tremendous progress in getting it cleaned out.
What it used to look like...maze upon maze of products....
So...a typical day...with a few surprises thrown in, such as emergency meetings, phone calls, or issues. Or dropped pallets of water on feet. I really couldn't imagine doing anything else right now, though...it's my own little way of helping with the relief effort.