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Service to others is a good experience
Old 10-16-2017, 06:41 PM   #1
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Service to others is a good experience

DH & I are currently in the USVI's volunteering with hurricane relief services. We are bone tired every night but glad to be here and grateful we are in the position to help.
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Old 10-16-2017, 06:49 PM   #2
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Wow that's awesome! I'm waiting and hoping for call up in November with the ARC down there. If it happens, I'll be PMing you for tips!

I've been doing a lot of community training courses over the past year, and also served as a govt liaison in the past couple of hurricanes here.

You are right, and the biggest benefit of serving are, for me, getting to be surrounded by others who are helping, and it makes me feel better about society in general.
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Old 10-16-2017, 07:02 PM   #3
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That is awesome Scuba! What a great thing you are doing.
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Old 10-16-2017, 08:44 PM   #4
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That is wonderful!
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Old 10-16-2017, 08:51 PM   #5
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I would love to hear more about this kind of thing. What do you do? I would love to get into something like that to scratch my volunteering itch.
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Old 10-16-2017, 09:12 PM   #6
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Scuba will know more about what they are doing, but my call-up will be for bulk distribution for the Red Cross. Depending on your interests, there are lots of organizations and roles available. This is something I researched quite a bit, and was pleased to be able to find things that suited my temperament and preferences and the time I can commit.

One thing I'm a huge fan of is the CERT program, which in my state is offered as an 8 week program, one night a week. We learned community emergency response stuff, basically to be the "responders" in our own communities before the real first responders can get there in a disaster. The training covers all kinds of cool stuff and in my class, was a very diverse group from very young college kids to elderly folks. Tons of fun, free, and we all got a cool backpack at the end, full of First Aid and other supplies. Useful for anyone to take.
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Old 10-16-2017, 09:17 PM   #7
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Scuba will know more about what they are doing, but my call-up will be for bulk distribution for the Red Cross. Depending on your interests, there are lots of organizations and roles available. This is something I researched quite a bit, and was pleased to be able to find things that suited my temperament and preferences and the time I can commit.

One thing I'm a huge fan of is the CERT program, which in my state is offered as an 8 week program, one night a week. We learned community emergency response stuff, basically to be the "responders" in our own communities before the real first responders can get there in a disaster. The training covers all kinds of cool stuff and in my class, was a very diverse group from very young college kids to elderly folks. Tons of fun, free, and we all got a cool backpack at the end, full of First Aid and other supplies. Useful for anyone to take.
That does sound great. I have never heard of it. This is high on my list when I stop going to w*rk every day.
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Old 10-16-2017, 09:45 PM   #8
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Glad to hear it's working out, Scuba. I'm a bit envious of that deployment, although I'm sure it's pretty tiring and rough duty. I'm planning to be available starting in December for whatever comes up this winter in my various ARC functions.
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Old 10-17-2017, 04:02 AM   #9
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DH & I tried to deploy with ARC, but they did not want to deploy us to USVI without previous field experience with ARC, even though we did have post-Katrina volunteer experience (just not through ARC). I had to do my own research and found some local St. Thomas charities that wanted volunteers and had space to house us. Housing is a priority since hotels aren't open now and most rentals either require a long-term lease or are expensive for what you get. So far we have distributed food and relief supplies to over 300 people, and today we helped prepare over 900 meals for people who lost their homes and/or are unable to provide their own food. Still hoping to hook up with Red Cross and help them too but so far no luck. There are plenty of others needing help though. Hurricane recovery on an isolated island is much slower than on the mainland. The USVI's were hit by 2 Category 5 hurricanes within a two week period. More than a month after the second storm, there are still loads of downed power lines all over the roads and only about 20% of the island has power. No one on St. John has power yet unless they have their own generator.

There are lots of volunteer opportunities for people who can do construction work and/or physically challenging work like working with chain saws and removing debris, demolishing ruined structures, putting tarps on damaged roofs, etc. These things are beyond our abilities but helping with feeding and supply distribution is also very satisfying.
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Old 10-17-2017, 07:00 AM   #10
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Thanks very much for the detail! One of the reasons I want to help down there is that I'm able to do construction and heavy lifting type stuff, and I'm not comfortable with shelter or case worker assignments, which is the primary focus for ARC. Interesting that you were able to find other charities working down there that could accommodate y'all.
I also lack the deployment experience with ARC, so I may go the same route as you. Really appreciate the on the ground assessment!
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Old 10-18-2017, 10:34 PM   #11
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Thanks very much for the detail! One of the reasons I want to help down there is that I'm able to do construction and heavy lifting type stuff, and I'm not comfortable with shelter or case worker assignments, which is the primary focus for ARC. Interesting that you were able to find other charities working down there that could accommodate y'all.
I also lack the deployment experience with ARC, so I may go the same route as you. Really appreciate the on the ground assessment!


Your skills are definitely needed here! Try allhands.org. They got back to us pretty quickly offering a deployment but we just didn't feel their work was a good match for our skills.
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Old 10-25-2017, 11:15 AM   #12
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Scuba!! I'm heading your way! Got my official deployment orders yesterday and scheduled for St. Thomas on Oct 31, for 21 days. Bulk distribution for the Red Cross.

Any tips you might have for packing, anything you wish you'd brought with you?
Hows cell service? What island are you on? Thanks so much!
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Old 10-26-2017, 06:28 PM   #13
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Scuba!! I'm heading your way! Got my official deployment orders yesterday and scheduled for St. Thomas on Oct 31, for 21 days. Bulk distribution for the Red Cross.

Any tips you might have for packing, anything you wish you'd brought with you?
Hows cell service? What island are you on? Thanks so much!


Awesome! Cell service is bad unless you have AT&T. We have Verizon and can't call or text. Can only access internet if we can use a restaurant's WiFi. St. Thomas was a bit better; calls didn't work and texting was off and on, not reliable. AT&T works pretty well here. Sprint and others don't work.

We are on St. John now but were also on St. Thomas for 8 days before coming to STJ. You will not need a lot of what Red Cross told us to bring. We haven't used work boots, gloves, mosquito nets, or most of the non-perishable food we brought. Definitely bring LOTS of bug repellent with DEET. Repel with 40% DEET has worked great for us. It is very hot & humid here now so lightweight clothes (I'm wearing sleeveless tank tops & shorts every day) are best. Bring flip flops and a pair of tennis shoes. You'll likely wear tennis shoes for bulk distribution but if you get reassigned to a shelter, flip flops will keep you cooler. Sun is strong here so bring sunscreen. Also a bathing suit just in case you get a day off. The beaches are reopening and it would be a shame not to go if you get a chance.

Red Cross workers in STT are staying on a donated decommissioned cruise ship. We stayed on it one night and nearly froze. Luckily I had jeans and a hoodie with me from the plane ride so I slept in those. We asked to have the temperature adjusted multiple times and they couldn't seem to get it above about 65 in our cabin. It's nice though - much better than the outdoor tents we were expecting.

On STJ we are staying in a hotel with a generator but no AC. Generator only runs at night and unfortunately we are working nights at a shelter with no AC. We have days free other than sleeping so if you want to meet up, PM me. We can take the ferry over to Red Hook and meet you there. It's on the other side of STT from the cruise ship but only a 20-30 minute drive. There are several decent restaurants open in Red Hook now.

Enjoy your deployment! It's hard work but very rewarding. The help is really needed here.
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Old 10-26-2017, 07:57 PM   #14
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Fantastic! I really appreciate the tips. I, too, have Verizon. Dang!
Am bringing a small down blanket so that’s good to know about the ship. And good tips on other stuff, too, thanks very much!
I will PM you about meeting up, would like that. I have a care package for a friend of a friend on St John that I want to take to her, so maybe I can take the ferry over and meet y’all then.
Again, can’t thank you enough!!
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Old 10-27-2017, 09:14 AM   #15
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Fantastic! I really appreciate the tips. I, too, have Verizon. Dang!
Am bringing a small down blanket so that’s good to know about the ship. And good tips on other stuff, too, thanks very much!
I will PM you about meeting up, would like that. I have a care package for a friend of a friend on St John that I want to take to her, so maybe I can take the ferry over and meet y’all then.
Again, can’t thank you enough!!


Sounds good, hope to see you soon!
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Old 11-30-2017, 07:41 PM   #16
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I’m back from my Red Cross deployment, and in the classic case of needing to be flexible, I wound up in Puerto Rico instead of the USVI.
I was more than a little nervous, because I’d heard it was a tougher environment and conditions all the way around, but it turned out to be incredible in every way.
My job was in logistics, and I had the good luck to be put in with a very experienced group, including 3 guys with military logistics backgrounds, plus a delegation from the Finnish Red Cross there to assist. Fascinating folks with stories of their work all over the world.
The people of PR were warm, grateful, and giving of their time to help their neighbors, even when they didn’t have much for themselves.
I worked in several of our warehouses, drove all over the island, and stayed in a dorm for the first time in my life! I had great roommates, though, and certainly gained a lot from spending time with folks who were doing good things.
I came home with a real appreciation for the helpful people in this world, and will try to remember that when the negatives get too deep in the news.
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Old 12-01-2017, 03:07 AM   #17
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I’m back from my Red Cross deployment, and in the classic case of needing to be flexible, I wound up in Puerto Rico instead of the USVI.
I was more than a little nervous, because I’d heard it was a tougher environment and conditions all the way around, but it turned out to be incredible in every way.
My job was in logistics, and I had the good luck to be put in with a very experienced group, including 3 guys with military logistics backgrounds, plus a delegation from the Finnish Red Cross there to assist. Fascinating folks with stories of their work all over the world.
The people of PR were warm, grateful, and giving of their time to help their neighbors, even when they didn’t have much for themselves.
I worked in several of our warehouses, drove all over the island, and stayed in a dorm for the first time in my life! I had great roommates, though, and certainly gained a lot from spending time with folks who were doing good things.
I came home with a real appreciation for the helpful people in this world, and will try to remember that when the negatives get too deep in the news.


Sarah, I'm so happy you had a great experience on your first deployment! There are a lot of helpful, giving people out there. Welcome home and enjoy your holidays.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:20 AM   #18
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Sarah, I'm so happy you had a great experience on your first deployment! There are a lot of helpful, giving people out there. Welcome home and enjoy your holidays.
+1 That's awesome!

So now that we have a source who had "boots on the ground", what is the best thing we can do to help the people there? Assuming we aren't going to physically go there and help (and that wouldn't be much help in my case - getting too old for much physical work/stamina!).

Red Cross Donation? Heifer.org (I think you can specify an area for funds?), both?, other?

I always assume a $ donation is better than "stuff" (blankets, etc) - I figure the organizations know best what is needed, and can buy iy and get it to people better than dealing with "stuff".

-ERD50
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:27 PM   #19
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ERD, interesting question. I am one of those folks that really wrestles with the concept of ethical giving, and what that really means. I think the Red Cross does a good job overall, but they struggle with the same immovable bureaucracy that all large charities do—the slowness to react.

Now that the recovery is gradually starting in Puerto Rico, I think the best help that can be given is for locally based groups like the one organized by PRs First Lady, https://www.unidosporpuertorico.com/en/

if you don’t want to give to a larger organization like the Red Cross.

It’s funny you mention “stuff”. I spent 5 days working on an inventory at two of our larger warehouses, and the “stuff” donated can sometimes leave something to be desired.

We had some heated discussions occasionally about what constitutes meals versus snacks, and I was alarmed at the junk food that was donated under the meal label. We carefully reviewed what was donated and never labeled anything but real food as meals.

And don’t sell yourself short about physical requirements to volunteer. I saw countless older folks who came down to do jobs that were just as important, but less physically demanding. In fact, our “dorm moms” were a pair of 70+ ladies that kept the Peace Corps youngsters in line very well and took fantastic, if fussy, care of my sprained ankle the first week I was there.
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Old 12-02-2017, 12:04 PM   #20
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I agree with Sarah that "stuff" donations are not that helpful at this point, at least in the USVI where we volunteered for a month. Cash donations are best. If you are interested in supporting USVI, My Brothers Workshop and St. Thomas Reformed Church are two excellent local organizations that do a huge amount to support the community. Tim Duncan (retired NBA player) also set up a charity to support the USVI. Tim has personally been on the ground distributing food and supplies several times.
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