By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross Volunteer
Your alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and its pitch-dark outside. You shower, shave, fill your travel mug with coffee and head for the garage. Traffic is amazingly light at 6:00 a.m., which is one of the benefits of starting so early, you tell yourself.
You and seven of your fellow Red Crossers are heading to the Cleveland ABC affiliate – WEWS Channel 5 TV, for the start of an all-day Hurricane Harvey fund raiser. Only the all-night anchors are here, so there’s plenty of parking spaces to choose from.
The studio is all set for us. Tables are arranged, phones are ready and a large flat screen announces the Red Cross website URL, phone number and text information for a quick pledge.
One-by-one, Red Cross volunteers, employees and even a board member file in and take their place at the tables. Four shifts are planned, so plenty of people can take part in this 6:00 a.m until 11:00 p.m. phone bank effort.
In fact, this is our second phone bank. Three days prior, another group of volunteers manned the phones from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. and were inundated with calls. “It was non-stop calling,” one volunteer said. “As soon as you hung up the call, there was another one ringing on the same line.”
The cameraman comes in and suggests a slight modification to our seating arrangement. We’ve begun the countdown to going ‘On Air.’
“We’re live in ten seconds,” says the cameraman, and we are off, fielding phone calls from across Northeastern Ohio.
By this time, there’s probably no one in America that hasn’t heard about the devastation being wrought upon Texas and Louisiana. News anchors compare the total rainfall to the amount of water in Lake Michigan, and another asks you to visualize the amount of water flowing over the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls. Now consider that flow for nine months straight, and you’ve got an idea how much water fell in just a few days in Texas.
“Oh my,” says the first caller. “Thank you for doing this for those poor people. I only wish I could give more. They must need so much help.”
Another caller is so distraught that she asks for a few seconds to collect herself, before completing her credit card information. Actually, many of the callers were quite emotional, knowing the stress and anguish being felt by the thousands of victims.
“I don’t know what those people would do if it weren’t for the Red Cross and the other agencies down there,” says another. This was a recurrent theme all morning.
By the end of the first shift, you start to compare numbers of callers and amounts raised. Amounts donated ranged from $10 to $1,000 this morning. Even larger amounts were reported from that first phone bank and possibly will be duplicated later in the day. Northeast Ohio has always been famous for its immense generosity whenever a need like this occurs, and it’s a great privilege to help out those so desperately in need.
You turn over your phone to the next volunteer, already missing the opportunity to talk with more like-minded Ohioans, bound to make a difference for the victims in Texas and Louisiana.
Won’t you join us? The American Red Cross is always looking for more volunteers. Sign up today to donate or to volunteer at http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer.