Jim Mehle became an American Red Cross volunteer this past February. Now, only a few months into his volunteer service, Jim is on-the-ground in New York City helping with the ongoing disaster relief response following Hurricane Sandy.
“I had no idea that my first assignment would be responding to one of the biggest storms to hit the United States in recent months,” says Jim.
After retiring in 2012 from his job as a psychiatric social worker in a minimum-security prison, Jim heard about volunteering with the American Red Cross through word of mouth and decided he’d give it a shot.
Since arriving in New York City, Jim’s been busy. Mostly he’s worked with one of several American Red Cross call centers serving as hubs for communication. Call centers gather damage information in specific geographic areas, record the number of calls centers receive each day and manage casework data entry for individual Red Cross clients. The call center provides Jim with his daily client list. Each day he works with 4 clients who’ve reached out to the Red Cross call center for help. Jim meets them in their neighborhoods where he sees the damage first hand.
“I’ve been on the road a lot. I’ve seen the damage. Some homes and businesses are beyond repair. The worst are closest to the coast.”
Among those Jim visited was a 61-year old man whose home of 40 years was destroyed on Staten Island. Currently, he’s staying with his son. He hopes to rebuild his home, but starting over after 40 years will likely be a difficult task.
“Your heart just goes out to these people,” says Jim.
Story by Hayes Kaufman/American Red Cross. Click here for more about Red Cross helping Sandy survivors.