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Mark Steffer

I started volunteering for the American Red Cross a few years before I retired. I became a member of the Disaster Assistance Team. The primary duties involve meeting with families immediately after a fire had damaged or destroyed their home. We provide assistance to make sure they have a place to stay, clothes to wear, and food. This often occurs even as smoke still rises from the embers and the firefighters are still pouring water to douse the last of the threats.

It is rewarding on so many levels to be the one who can make the worst of days a little better and provide the first steps to recovery. 

I became interested in other types of local responses which included working in shelters when large apartment building fires displaced large numbers of folks. I worked in a shelter for victims of the North Minneapolis tornado. 

Upon retiring, I was able to deploy for longer assignments. In the first six months I was sent to Duluth for flooding, Tampa for a hurricaine, and New Jersey for Super-storm Sandy. It was in New Jersey, where as an EMT, I was assigned to provide health care in a shelter for over two hundred people. I saw up close how every individual is only a single incident from being homeless and needing to rely on the kindness of others for even the most basic of needs. No amount of planning, money, or insurance could protect these wonderful people from having nowhere else to go. 

I continue to volunteer locally and will deploy nationally as can be practical. Red Cross provides all the training and puts volunteers in a group of terrific like minded people. After just a few, two to four hour classes, volunteers can be doing disaster relief, client casework, health care, mental health, logistics, or many other duties that make a difference in the community. As a retirement gig it allows me to pursue the interests that led me to teaching in the first place, but to do so in a completely new and ever so rewarding setting.

Mark Steffer

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