Story by Mauri Shuler, American Red Cross
She was an accountant who worked with numbers to keep the books right. But Janet Upchurch of Riverside, California, was always a people person.
So, in retirement, Janet joined the American Red Cross.
“I love people,” she says, “so I joined Red Cross and went to help out during the Katrina disaster. That was the start of it.”
Since that fateful event in 2005, this 84-year-old has more than 30 deployments on her volunteer resume.
“It keeps me young,” she says, “I am too busy thinking about other people, people who have lost everything.”
Upchurch was flown into an isolated shelter near the North Carolina coast to help a small staff of five Red Cross volunteers who were sheltering, feeding and offering comfort to 900 people displaced by the rising waters caused by Hurricane Florence.
They became a tight-knit team and kept food, health care and support flowing to the crowded high school that became a shelter in the storm.
On deployment in a disaster, the hours are long, the living conditions are not ideal; yet Janet says she loves it, “I go every chance I get.”
She enjoys the teamwork and the chance to help others in need, “It’s about them, not me.”
Lasting friendships come out of her Red Cross work. During the Hawaii volcanic eruptions, Janet met a woman whose home had been devoured by a lava flow. They quickly bonded over their dogs and keep in touch.
“I take everybody home in my heart.”
Proud to be part of a larger effort to relieve suffering, she wonders about the alternative: “If we weren’t here, what would happen?”
HOW YOU CAN HELP The Red Cross has launched a massive response to this disaster and depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Help people affected by Hurricane Florence by visiting redcross.org, calling 1- 800-RED CROSS or texting the word FLORENCE to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster.
The Red Cross honors donor intent. Donors can designate their donation to Hurricane Florence relief efforts by choosing that option when donating on redcross.org or on 1-800-RED CROSS.