Red Cross volunteer heads for tornado-stricken Oklahoma

Jun. 12, 2013 @ 10:46 AM

Deb Patton left for Oklahoma last week to help people who have been impacted by the tornadoes. 

She will be in Oklahoma for two weeks.

Patton has volunteered with the American Red Cross for about 10 years. This is not her first time leaving to help others. She went to New York to help Hurricane Sandy victims, went to the North Carolina coast to help Hurrican Irene victims and went to New Orleans to help Hurricane Katrina victims. 

“People need help and I can be there, I have the time, the availability, I can get there and help,” Patton said. “If I don’t do it, how I can I expect help if I need it?”

Patton, a Monroe resident, is an accountant by trade and will be helping with accounting and statistical work in Oklahoma, she will keep track of assistance to clients and where the donations go. 

Union County Red Cross Executive Director Sheila Crunkleton said the volunteers go through extensive training before deploying on these trips. The organization makes sure that the volunteers are as prepared as they can be when they leave. 

“Our volunteers are so special to us,” Crunkleton said. “We’re a volunteer-driven organization, 90 percent of our workforce are volunteers.”

Patton, as of last Friday, did not know where in Oklahoma she was being sent or necessarily where she was staying. 

“It’s always controlled chaos in the beginning,” Patton said. “We’re trying to find our way, we’re wanting to help clients, we’ve got to get organized ... it’s always a little bit chaotic at the beginning, then we get going and things get done.”

She heard from another volunteer that volunteers were originally in staff shelters, but are slowly moving into hotels. Patton said that is usually a sign the recovery is beginning, if hotels are emptying enough to allow staff in. 

“It’s going to be years before recovery is complete,” she added. 

Making a difference is what keeps Patton volunteering. She remembered handing out meal boxes in New Orleans after Katrina and a man asked her something and was under the impression she was being paid. When she said she was a volunteer he could not believe people would volunteer their time to help. 

“It’s know that I can make a difference,” Patton said. “Knowing that we’re all together making a difference.”

Crunkleton said she is proud of Patton and all of their volunteers. 

Their commitment “is just extreme,” she said. “It’s amazing what they do with these people ... I think that’s just amazing.”