We are very proud of Harvey Lorenz and the incredible work he does in the field and his long term planning to ensure the future of the American Red Cross critical services and programs. Harvey and his wife Margaret, were featured in the Summer 2014 Legacy newsetter published by the American Red Cross.
You can read his entire story here.
By Harvey Lorenz, American Red Cross Volunteer
Soon after I retired in 1995, a church friend who served on the board of the local Red Cross chapter recruited me to join the board as its treasurer. After two terms as treasurer, I served as chair of the nominating committee and then served three terms as local chapter chair. During this time, I became active in the local disaster response team, mainly by being called out as a “caseworker” in the middle of the night to assist various families experiencing home fires.
Typically, I’d receive several of these calls every month, and my wife Margaret became known as the most awake and cheerful person to answer the phone in the middle of the night.
In 2005, my heart went out to the many victims of Katrina and I quickly volunteered to go south. I was sent to Mississippi where I was an intake interviewing caseworker helping to determine what kind of aid displaced families and individuals could receive and counseling them on how to receive additional assistance from other community resources or their own insurance companies. So often these people had left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, they had no rapid access to any savings because their banks were flooded and not operating, and/or they didn’t remember the names of their insurance agents (or those agents had been displaced as well). I talked to one woman who had given birth the day after fleeing her home, had named her baby Katrina, and was staying in the mass shelter with her week-old infant. Another put her two-year old in a laundry basket “boat” and swam to safety, pulling him behind her. Her friend who left their flooded house with her never made it to dry ground. Several people had been pulled off their roofs by helicopter crews, and others had lost touch with family members or were grieving relatives who had died.
These interviews were hard on me personally. There were times when I had to put a “closed” sign on my table in the shelter hallway for a few minutes while I went outside to clear my head.
When I came home after three weeks in Mississippi, I knew I wanted to keep helping on the national level, but I also knew I wasn’t good at being a caseworker in such extreme situations. I immediately signed up for classes in disaster assessment and financial/statistical information gathering and reporting.
Right away, over Thanksgiving in 2005, I was able to use some of the assessment skills in Florida after Wilma, and most of my responses since then (14 more national disasters in all, generally two to three weeks each) have been related to the financial/statistical responsibilities, often as a supervisor and even as “state manager” in New Hampshire after Ike-related flooding. Some of the other national calls have involved Kansas ice storms, flooding in southern Wisconsin, and multiple tornados in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I responded after Superstorm Sandy twice actually, once initially (over Thanksgiving again) and then about three months later when the Red Cross was making a big push to permanently relocate everyone who’d been in temporary housing since the storm. I’ve stayed in gymnasiums, church shelters, converted warehouse shelters, a Boy Scout camp, motels with barely dry rooms and no other services, and low-end walk-up big-city hotels.
On the local level, disaster services has been reorganized so that now I am captain of a team that’s on-call about one week out of six, and that has meant fewer late-night phone calls. Additionally, I’ve responded as shelter worker for a couple of regional flooding situations, doing disaster assessment after a tornado in our own city, and—last year two weeks after my total knee replacement, when I couldn’t walk anywhere on rough terrain–I served as the phone liaison between the Red Cross and County Emergency Services. I have been active on fundraising committees and also serve as a kind of a 24/7 back-up to the local staff disaster manager during those times when he might be out of town or on vacation.
Although Margaret has never accompanied me on any of my responses, she says she feels that she is contributing a bit too, as she never complains about my being gone over holidays and family events, and she takes over my at-home responsibilities with our own two dogs and our volunteer fostering of rescue dogs. We can’t really identify when, how, or why, we changed from sending Red Cross minimal yearly contributions and became larger donors. That and designating the American Red Cross in my will just seemed the right things to do in order to continue to respond to local and national disasters. I’ve seen the good we can do.
If you would like information about how you can support our mission and help those in need by creating your own legacy like Harvey and Margaret Lorenz have done, please contact our Gift Planning Office at 1-800-797-8022 ext 5, email@example.com or log on to http://www.redcrosslegacy.org