By EILENE E. GUY
American Red Cross volunteer
AKRON, July 17, 2016 – American Red Crosser Pam Williams is used to handling challenges.
In the last eight years, she has done some 25 disaster deployments all over the country. As a government liaison, she sees to it that the Red Cross is working smoothly with whatever tribal, local, state and even federal agencies are also responding to a disaster.
“I haven’t severed diplomatic relations with a single state yet,” the slim, whitehaired volunteer from Akron, Ohio, said with a chuckle.
Williams admits it’s not always easy when “cranky politicians” take out their stress on her. She recalls with pride an episode that started with an angry emergency management director and his shelter manager who didn’t understand Red Cross policies. Williams went out of her way to patiently explain the “back story” of each and every procedure, adding hours to her days to smooth the local government-Red Cross relationship. Her reward: The shelter manager later wrote to her at home, asking how to become a Red Cross volunteer.
On the eve of what could be a busy assignment, as the Red Cross and its many partners get ready for the Republican National Convention, Williams seized a new challenge: She took the training to become a forklift driver.
The Red Cross offers a staggering array of free courses, both on-line and hands-on, to teach disaster responders how to safely and effectively do their jobs – or jobs that they might just want to try.
“I know that we’re often short of forklift drivers, when a truck comes in with a load of supplies, and I thought ‘What the heck’,” Williams said, with an almost-mischievous smile. “You never know” when you might be able to fill a pressing need.
“It’s not necessarily hard to drive a forklift, but it’s nothing like driving a car,” she learned. With a zero-turning radius, “it feels like the back is going to slide right around in front of you. That took some getting used to.”
Using her light touch and attention to detail, Williams mastered the machine, much to the delight of her many male co-workers. “I didn’t hurt anybody. I didn’t damage any equipment or drop any loads,” she said with amused pleasure, “so it’s a good day!”
Now Williams’s car can sport a bumper sticker that proclaims: “My other ride is a forklift.”