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When disaster strikes

From Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath to a local house fire, Red Cross volunteer June Albor responds where she is needed

By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

June Albor arrived in New York just as Superstorm Sandy was blowing out.

Albor, an American Red Cross disaster volunteer, was handed a sheet of paper listing the addresses of shelters.

 READY TO HELP: June Albor works at Petaluma People Services Center when she's not responding to disasters as a Red Cross volunteer. (SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat)


READY TO HELP: June Albor works at Petaluma People Services Center when she’s not responding to disasters as a Red Cross volunteer. (SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat)

Go, they said. Help.

“We found people who had gone a day without food or water. Nothing,” she said.

“We had to fix that. We couldn’t walk away.”

Albor, 56, was inspired to volunteer with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina in 2008.

The Santa Rosa native had the heart for the job. She works for the Petaluma People Services Center helping people transition from welfare to work.

But emotions can be a difficult thing to manage in the face of tragedy.

Albor described responding in the aftermath of house fires and talking to people whose lives have been reduced to what they can carry in a garbage bag.

“You’re talking to someone who literally, for the moment, has lost everything,” she said.

Such was the case last year in New York, but on a massive scale unlike anything Albor had ever seen.

She scrambled to find food, water, blankets — the most basic things that victims of the hurricane needed for survival. She and other Red Cross volunteers fed 3,000 people in a single day.

“You become a darn good gofer,” she said.

She remembers one girl in particular who was staying in a shelter on Long Island. It was snowing outside and the girl was freezing cold.

Albor helped find a coat for the girl, who thanked the volunteers by singing a lovely song in Spanish at the top of her lungs.

Back home, Albor is required to be on call one week of every month to respond to emergencies.

The work entails everything from finding food and shelter for clients, to helping them fill out forms and referring them to other agencies for additional services.

New volunteers attend an orientation meeting and an overview of the disaster services program. The degree to which a person becomes involved depends on their skills and willingness to undergo additional training in disaster response and preparedness.

The training is provided by the American Red Cross of Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties.

Red Cross volunteers also help by teaching CPR and first aid, providing services to members of the military and their families and with fundraisers.

For more information, visit www.redcross.org/SonomaCounty and click on “volunteer.”

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.