Huron Red Cross volunteer helps families after disasters — from home

COURTESY PHOTO Annette Bowen of Huron is shown in her home where she volunteers as a Duty Officer with the American Red Cross. The Red Cross is seeking 10 volunteers to join its Disaster Action Team as Duty Officers.

Red Cross seeks more virtual volunteers

HURON — The American Red Cross serving Eastern South Dakota is looking for 10 volunteers to join its Disaster Action Teams (DAT) as Duty Officers to support their community during local disasters.

Duty Officers, who volunteer from home, are the first point of contact for local emergency responders and coordinate Red Cross assistance for those affected by local emergencies.

Huron resident Annette Bowen serves as a Red Cross Duty Officer, taking dispatch calls from local fire departments when people are in need after a home fire.

She takes down the details, uses her phone and a simple computer program to find the closest Red Cross volunteers and sends them to the scene. From there, Bowen manages the response, ensuring families receive care, comfort and essentials after their darkest days.

“We help their nightmares to feel a little less scary,” Bowen explained. “When I am called to help in the middle of the night, I don’t stop to think about what time it is, I only think about the families I will be able to support during such a difficult time.”

Bowen works full-time at a financial investment company and volunteers as a Duty Officer in her spare time. She has volunteered with the Red Cross on multiple occasions throughout her life. The role of Duty Officer on the Disaster Action Team has given Bowen a sense of purpose and hope. Being a Duty Officer allows Bowen to help people get through their worst nightmares.

Early on in her time as a Duty Officer, she received a disaster call in the middle of the night for a home fire that had displaced an entire family.

After receiving assurance that Red Cross support was on the way, the homeowner said to her, “Thank you for being our angel in the middle of the night.”

These words are what Bowen thinks of every time she is called to respond to a disaster. She is always ready to offer whatever help she can to those going through their worst life experiences.

Conversations like this help her remember the true value of her work as a Duty Officer.

As a virtual position, anyone can be a Duty Officer — no matter their physical distance from the scene of a disaster or if they have mobility troubles.

To learn more about serving your community in this critical role, please contact Josh Christianson, Volunteer Service Specialist by email [email protected] or phone (701)715-8640.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

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