Tuesday, November 6, 2018

My Red Cross Story: Joe Rollo

Written by: Rosalind SE Carney, Volunteer

Over a year later, Joe Rollo recalls his Hurricane Harvey disaster relief experience.

Joe Rollo has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross since he retired in 2015. As the former Director for Psychological Services in the Prince George’s County, MD, Police Department, he has extensive experience in emergency response and mental health counseling services. Joe’s primary interest with the Red Cross is volunteering with the Reconnection Workshops that help service members reintegrate into the family dynamic when they return from deployment.

Joe is also trained in disaster relief and deployed to Houston, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Given his background, his role as a volunteer in Houston was to provide psychological support to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and provide emotional support to other Red Cross volunteers.

In September 2017, Joe arrived at the George Brown Convention Center in Houston, a city where his son and wife’s family lives. For the next ten days, Joe saw the exemplary work of the Houston Police Department, especially considering one of their officers had died as a result of his hurricane relief efforts.

3rd from the right: Joe Rollo
Joe describes how many of the people who sought refuge at the Convention Center shelter were not displaced from their homes – they were homeless. He noted that people in the shelter were remarkably cooperative despite the challenging conditions; there was a sense of appreciation between people. The children who were displaced from their homes or who were homeless were particularly resilient. In fact, the children seemed more adaptable than their parents, perhaps as they did not fully grasp the gravity of the situation.

Out of those unfortunate conditions, some positive events occurred.

Many homeless people were veterans, including a group of six Vietnam veterans. While under the care of the Red Cross, homeless people received regular meals and medical checkups they would otherwise not have had. Importantly, the veterans received information regarding specific Red Cross services available to them of which they were unaware. Two of the homeless Vietnam veterans reconnected with their children, who had been displaced from their homes by Hurricane Harvey.

A number of National Guard members who helped at the Center had previously been deployed to Iran and Afghanistan. A fraternity developed between the veterans and the younger members of the military. A spirit of working together also formed between the Red Cross volunteers, the Southern Baptists who provided food, and an Islamic group that works nationally with flood victims.

From the experience in Houston, Joe gained an increased sense of trust, compassion, and gratitude. He had lost colleagues in both the law enforcement and the military, and the Red Cross has helped him to find another family.


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