Friday, October 26, 2007

Heroes Of The Week: Crisis Volunteers

No doubt the firefighters in California would be an awesome choice for this week's Hero of the Week. Having dated a fireman that responded to such crisis, I know what they go through. But, I have recognized first responders several times already.

Today, while recognizing those important contributions, I am giving the actual award to crisis volunteers. I learned that a boss I had about 10 years ago is now in charge of the Red Cross effort in Mission Viejo.

I spotted this story on

Dust off every disaster plan from Washington to San Diego, scrutinize them to your heart's content, and it's still unlikely you'll find mention of the emergency services provided by Shary Shores. Shores, a volunteer registrar at San Diego's evacuee shelter, has appointed herself the shelter's "hugger." Every person she signs in gets a warm, heartfelt hug.

Having lost her own home to foreclosure in March, Shores says she has empathy for the suddenly homeless. Her embraces may not be government-sanctioned, but they are appreciated. "I can't tell you how many people say 'Thank you. ... I needed that,'" Shores said.

Welcome to Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers and, for the time being, thousands of people who have fled the California wildfires that destroyed nearly 1,600 homes and burned some 679 square miles. Some 76,000 people stayed in 42 San Diego County shelters Wednesday night, county emergency spokeswoman Lynda Pfieffer said. Those numbers were dropping as residents were allowed to return home.

Qualcomm Stadium housed 11,000 evacuees at the peak of the disaster, but that number dropped to 5,000 Wednesday morning....Conceived on paper as a safe — if uncomfortable — refuge for thousands of people, Qualcomm Stadium has become in practice a wonderland of surprises. Were it not for the absence of a Ferris wheel, the tent city just inside the stadium's gates could be mistaken for a county fair. Stiltwalkers stroll around the grounds waving at gawking children. Food and drink are abundant. Signs hawk free massages, acupuncture treatments and spiritual aide.
The real purpose of this midway, however, becomes apparent only at second glance. At a booth where one might expect to buy cotton candy, a volunteer pharmacist dispenses aspirin and antacid. Other tents are labeled "Safeco Insurance" and "All State." Catholic Charities has erected a tent, as has a local politician.
Disaster experts say planners sometimes focus on the negative consequences of disasters, such as public panic or rioting, which are rare. And planners rarely focus on the more likely consequences of disaster -- massive outpourings of help. But whether by accident or design, San Diego is offering emergency planners a lesson in harnessing volunteerism.
This is what America is all about. This is what makes us different. This is why the world has traditionally looked upon us with such favor.

To my former boss and all those who selflessly give their time and effort, thank you. You are my Heroes of the Week!

1 comment:

michael sean morris said...

Living as I do in an America-hating country, I have to work hard to get Canadians to distinguish between the majority of Americans and the gun-toting, Bible-beating hypocrites who tend to get the most attention.

These volunteers are the real deal; it hurts me to think what something like Ann Coulter might have to say about them, fond as she is of criticizing people like the 9/11 widows.