Bill Roach helps Red Cross provide relief
Bill Roach of Standing Stone Township recently returned home after spending several weeks in Chicago.
Bill's trip to Arlington Heights, one of Chicago's suburbs, did not involve leisure or business - at least not business in the regular monetary sense. For Bill, along with many other Red Cross volunteers, was involved in helping provide much-needed relief to the community following the devastating effects of a local flood.
Bill explained that he has two jobs as a volunteer with the Red Cross - serving on the board of the Bradford Sullivan County Chapter of the organization, as well as being deployed to provide relief efforts where ever a disaster strikes.
"I deploy nationally," Bill explained. "And I deploy for one of two things. Either health services, or client casework. Chicago happened to be client casework.
Bill continued by explaining that the Red Cross provide three main types of services under such circumstances - preparedness, response and recovery.
"The mission I was on was the later recovery mission," he said.
This involved providing assistance for to obtain relief for community members who had been affected by the floods which had struck the area in April. Bill explained that FEMA had asked the Red Cross to contact various clients in the area and determine the progress of their recovery. If there were things standing in the way of recovery, Bill continued, the Red Cross addressed the issues with the clients, and provided resources through community partners to take away the "stumbling blocks" which were standing in the way of recovery.
"Basically, we made phone calls; introduced ourselves; told them that we retained their information from FEMA; and we needed to know where they stood on recovery," he said. "And based on their individual response, it just split to multiple different agencies or resources. A lot of people didn't know what resources were available and our job was just to direct them to the resources and also educate them on the danger of mold."
Black mold, Bill explained, was particularly troublesome to those recovering from the flood's effects. What they did was provide information on how to safely remove the mold, as well as inform specific agencies to assist in the project if the clients were elderly, handicapped, or financially unable to do it themselves.
"A lot of them we directed to United Way, the Salvation Army, Catholic charities. They were just some of the organizations that could assist them. If the Red Cross could not assist, then we had a network of community partners who could provide assistance with their individual needs."
What he did specifically while in Chicago, Bill explained, was to function as an "intake worker." He called clients and took their requests, along with their concerns and their needs. Based on their responses, Bill said, he would direct the clients to specific resources. Some involved home visits, where they viewed the property and complied a report to FEMA.
Bill said he just got back from Chicago on Tuesday, after providing relief assistance to clients for 21 days. He said he was lodged at the Extended Stay Hotel in the area, and typically worked 10-hour days, six days a week for the Red Cross.
Bill has worked as a Red Cross volunteer since the 1990s. Initially, Bill explained, he worked for blood services, but turned his attention toward disaster response when Hurricane Katrina struck the nation.
"I worked at Robert Packer in the nursing department, in the trauma center," Bill said, explaining that he is an emergency medical technician. What he did was simply take his life skills and applied them to the Red Cross' disaster relief program on a volunteer basis.
Asked what made him decide to become a Red Cross volunteer, Bill said he credits his mother and father for his decision.
"We grew up in a humble home, not much money. So we gave our assistance - we couldn't afford a lot of financial donations - so we gave what we could give and that was our time."
"I think I've been on a total of 25 disasters, since Katrina," Bill explained when asked how many times he's been in the field. "The latest one was Superstorm Sandy. "I was based out of Atlantic City, N.J. Then later out of Manhattan, N.Y."
In addition, Bill continued, he's been on the scene to provide relief following floods that occurred in Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Ga.
"Before this particular one, I was assigned to Moore, Okla., for the tornadoes," Bill said. "And I did health services there. And we were assigned the victims of the Tower Plaza Elementary School where the seven young lives were taken."
The mission of the Red Cross, Bill continued, is to prepare - and not just the volunteers, but the communities the local chapters serve as well. The Red Cross provides information on such possible disasters as tornadoes, earthquakes and floods, to educate the people in the community they serve.
"When a disaster occurs such as the floods in 2011, we would mobilize and we would respond," he said.
In such circumstances, Bill explained, they initially work at fulfilling "unmet" needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. Once those needs are met, they then focus their attention on recovery, so that the people in the affected area can get back to the pre-disaster state.
"We're always looking for volunteers," Bill explained. "And we made it easier for them. They can go through www.redcross.org; or they can look up their local chapter.