By Lea Braff, Communications Volunteer
When disaster strikes, victims need someone seasoned who knows exactly what to do, someone like Donald Barkley of Fairview Heights, Ill., who has worked as a Red Cross Disaster volunteer since 1999.
As we watched and mourned the tragedy unfold in Colorado, Don Barkley contacted the Red Cross office and offered to help. The next day he was making plans to go to Denver to help with the flooding response.
“I arrived in Colorado on Monday (Sept. 16),” Barkley said. “I flew into Denver and went straight to Red Cross headquarters downtown.”
Barkley is supporting Red Cross helping to set up, staff and supply shelters. Today, Sept. 27, 12 shelters are set up in five Colorado counties.
“We’re dispersing Red Cross personnel from all branches — sending them out to the shelters,” he explained. “We send out nurses, caseworkers, damage-assessment people, mass-care folks to serve meals and shelter people. A lot of people are still not back in their (homes) because they can’t get to them. Hundreds are still living in shelters. We will feed and house them until they can get back into their homes.”
Every hour of a typical response day is a “working hour,” said Barkley, who is retired from Scott Air Force Base.
“I’m up at 5:30, in the office by 7:00. I usually leave after 8:00 pm. Most of the work is coordinating people, dispatching incoming personnel to the cities where they’re needed, and setting up the lodging.
“I’m supporting the (Red Cross) people in the field, and the clients who are affected by the flooding, but I do not get to talk to the clients.” He doesn’t have the time or opportunity. He has been so busy he had even seen the rain.
Barkley said he had no idea how long the effort would last. When he first arrived, the Red Cross was operating in 10 counties. He understands 5,000 homes had been totally destroyed. That would indicate this response will last for months.
Barkley said he has traveled for 42 disaster-relief missions during his years with the Greater St. Louis Red Cross. The missions have included Hurricane Katrina, the attack on 9-1-1, Hurricane Isaac, and the recent wildfires in Arizona.
“I’ve been all over,” Barkley said.