Alex is so excited about the opportunity to help he literally bounces as he interacts with fellow volunteers and goes about his job. “I’m here to serve…being here gives me a sense of purpose…It feels like I’m doing something with my life,” he enthused.
On this day Alex, along with his partner, Red Cross Volunteer Chris Schuler from Nashville, Tennessee, were cruising the streets of the Willow Meadows and Willow Bend areas of Houston in a Red Cross ERV, distributing water, food, and snacks to people busy carting cherished possessions, now saturated by waters filled with a toxic brew of chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and who knows what else, from their homes. “We will be back with a meal for dinner” and “what else do you need?” were their constant refrains.
“Should we be wearing gloves? My hands have been burning after handling this stuff,” asked one resident. Another indicated an interest in obtaining cleaning supplies. Alex took their addresses and careful notes to report back to his supervisor at the Disaster Operations Center so that Red Cross cleanup kits, containing gloves and cleaning supplies could be delivered.
When not deployed, Alex is a student at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He holds the Bachelor of Science Degree in the same subject from the University of Michigan.
“What can I say, I’m a geek.” said Alex. “During high school I set up an Internet server in the basement of my mother’s house and was a member of my high school robotics club and the marching band.”
But when Alex moved to Maryland in 2012 he broadened his interests by looking for opportunities to help others. “I really wanted to do something meaningful. First, I volunteered for a food bank, but I couldn’t stand just sorting cans….I wanted to interact with people,” he declared.
Then he found the Red Cross: “There’s something addictive about responding to disasters…. Back home I’m on call as a DAT [Disaster Action Team] Lead one week out of every month and volunteer as a team member at other times. I get calls in the middle of the night to respond to home fires…. I’ve been to a whole bunch of fires. I hope it will be the worst day of people’s lives and that things get better. Some fire clients are very proactive, getting on with the things they need to do. Others are withdrawn, sitting on the sidelines. Those are the ones I try to make sure I notice,” Alex declaimed.
“I like the Red Cross because it serves everyone. It’s that principle of neutrality. That’s a big thing…. Other organizations often have a second agenda, but the Red Cross is just there to provide help when it’s needed,” Alex concluded.