When disasters strike, there is often a natural desire to reach out to help people in need. For many local businesses, this often means giving a large donation of goods or services to those affected. A large disaster like the Blue Cut Fire creates more needs than any one organization can handle. The Red Cross trains year-round to respond to these kinds of disasters, including creating partnerships with local businesses who can jump in to support during times of need.
While the Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle a large influx of donations from the public, such as household items, clothing, or food, there are certain times that chapters can accept large bulk donations from businesses. “Bulk donations” refers to large donations of a single product that are typically provided by companies that manufacture or distribute the product and have the resources to ship it directly to the disaster site, often on large pallets. Often, these are items that are immediately needed for an ongoing disaster relief operation.
When the Blue Cut Fire erupted in San Bernardino County, local businesses sprang into action with bulk donations of food, bottled water, and snacks for those affected by the 37,000-acre wildfire. As the calls started coming in, one Red Crosser showed what being a volunteer is all about.
“I realized there was a need [to help facilitate the influx of bulk donations] and I just started doing it,” said Kathleen Gavuzzi of East Highland. Kathleen is a Disaster Action Team (DAT) Captain and Regional Training and Onboarding Lead for American Red Cross Serving San Bernardino County. “I had taken the class online last year, but I was so nervous because this was the first time I was actually doing the job.”
As the Disaster Response In-Kind Donation Coordinator, Kathleen coordinated with interested companies and the chapter’s logistics department to ensure all goods and services donated to the Red Cross were accounted for, and that the appropriate credit was issued for the company’s generosity.
Debbie Graves, Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross Desert to the Sea Region said Kathleen embodies the Red Cross Spirit as a whole. “She has been such a blessing,” said Graves. “She saw a need that she was qualified to fill and she just jumped in. She has no idea how many lives she’s helped by doing this.”
One of Kathleen’s first calls came from Costco Warehouse, who wanted to donate two pallets of individual snacks for those affected by the fire. She and the warehouse manager worked on the logistics to get this material to the Red Cross, and she was excited to see it all come to fruition. “I remember asking our public information officer if they could be on hand when we took delivery,” said a beaming Kathleen. “I really wanted someone to be there to say thank-you and I was hoping to see photographs of them loading the snacks onto our trucks. I was so excited to be a part of this.”
Every day, Red Cross volunteers like Kathleen are on call around-the-clock to provide help and hope during disasters big and small. Interested in becoming a volunteer? Visit redcross.org/volunteer to get started today!