“Come join us, we’d love to meet you!”
The friendly prompt comes from Mark and Mary Howell who are disaster volunteers with the American Red Cross. The married couple from the Dayton, Ohio, area have been volunteers for approximately two years. Mark and Mary explain they volunteer “in order to give back to the community as a couple, to share stories and develop friendships with other volunteers, and most importantly to help those who need it the most when their need is greatest.”
Mark, a retiree from the NCR Corporation. explained “It’s a great opportunity to give back with one of the most worthwhile organizations. It’s full of people with good hearts trying to make a difference.”
Mary likes the many possibilities the Red Cross provides. “It’s very much a volunteer-led organization with very flexible schedules and excellent training opportunities. There’s a role for just about anyone and you can be a part of it for a very long time.”
Mary is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) member who responds when there are local fires. She makes the initial contact with clients who have suffered a home fire and works to provide them with the assistance they need to start their road to recovery. She is also an Emergency Response Vehicle driver (ERV) who gets supplies to the scene of disasters.
Mark is a group supervisor for the Disaster Action Team in Preble, Montgomery, and Greene counties in Ohio. He’s responsible for training all the new volunteers who come into the chapter. He’s also a DAT responder, ERV driver, and a disaster shelter supervisor.
Both Mary and Mark say the most impactful moments they have had as Red Cross volunteers came as part of hurricane relief efforts. For Mary, it was Hurricane Laura in 2020, and for Mark it was Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
Mark was part of the first wave of Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles to reach the Outer Banks of North Carolina after Hurricane Dorian hit and as he describes, the destruction he saw was “unbelievable.” His work involved feeding, providing cleaning supplies, shovels, and materials to those affected by the hurricane. He was struck by the heavy emotions at the scene and the incredible gratefulness of those who he was able to help.
Mary too was impressed by the incredible appreciation for the Red Cross that she felt from those she served during her response to Hurricane Laura. “I was so appreciative of the thanks that I heard from so many people who noticed that the Red Cross help was coming from people so far away who were willing to help strangers in need.”
Her deployment to Louisiana was particularly demanding given the challenges of COVID-19. Instead of the usual large group shelters in a high school gym or equivalent space, the Red Cross utilized hotel rooms to provide safe lodging for those in need. As a result, more volunteers were needed to manage the process.
Mark and Mary have done just about everything there is to do as Red Cross disaster volunteers. They’ve driven ERVs halfway across the country, worked in distribution warehouses, put in 12-hour shifts in shelters and responded to local house fires… among other jobs.
Mark sums up his work with the Red Cross, “It’s clear, there’s lots of needs and it includes wearing a lot of hats.” Both Mary and Mark appreciate being able to help someone in their time of greatest need as well as the camaraderie and friendships they’re building with other Red Cross volunteers.
“It’s work, but it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding,” said Mary.
Please consider joining Mark and Mary Howell, and the thousands of other wonderful people from Central and Southern Ohio who volunteer with the Red Cross, by going to www.redcross.org/volunteertoday or www.redcross.org/donate.