Story by Jon Breems
Being a Red Cross volunteer means being ready to adapt—just ask Robert. On a Saturday morning last month, Robert Miller received a call from his Red Cross chapter asking him for help. Due to the flooding in Colorado, the Red Cross had put out a call for 16 mass care feeding volunteers and the chapter wanted Robert to submit his name. He agreed and several hours later was informed he would be leaving for Denver the next day.
Leaving for Colorado wasn’t the last time Robert would have to adapt. After arriving at the Red Cross relief operation headquarters, he learned that his role had changed in the disaster operation.
“Upon processing in on Monday, my designation was changed to ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) driver,” said Robert. “I was assigned to the warehouse where ERV drivers were hauling bulk”.
Robert and another volunteer were tasked with delivering food and water to a town in the mountains about 20 miles away. What should have been a short trip into the surrounding mountains quickly turned into a several hour trek as many of the roads had been damaged due to the floods. They received assistance, however, from a familiar source.
As Robert and his partner sat in their ERV in disbelief at the seeming impossibility of their directions, a woman pulled up next to them. She explained that she was a former Red Cross volunteer and offered to help.
“She told us that she had driven ERVs before and that there was no way we would get to our destination the way the GPS was directing us,” said Robert. “Then she told us how to realistically get to where we were going.”
Throughout the week Robert and a team of volunteers delivered and distributed supplies to the communities surrounding Denver. Miller says he was surprised at the community of those in the mountains.
“There are all kinds of people living in these mountains…they all seem to look out for each other,” he noted.
Passing out food and supplies to residents in need, Robert also recognized the independent spirit of the Coloradoans.
“Most people seemed very independent, humbled by their current need and very grateful for what they were receiving, taking only what they needed,” Robert observed. “If we tried to give them something they didn’t think they had a need for, they insisted we keep it for someone who really did.”
Overall, the ten days Robert spent in Colorado were challenging and often unpredictable, but ultimately worthwhile—giving him a deeper perspective on helping others.
“The people who volunteer with the Red Cross are all kinds of people, from all walks of life, just like those we are there to help,” Robert reflected. “I have that in mind whenever I’m thanked for my work—I say ‘That’s OK, at any time I, my family, or my town could be on the other side’.”