Paula Forrest

Paula Forrest

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Paula is our POZZYVIBER of the month this July!  Paula currently spends most of her free time volunteering with the Red Cross. Paula was first inspired to begin volunteering back during Hurricane Katrina. She had tried approaching community churches that were involved with helping those affected by Katrina to assist there, but after being told she needed training to pitch in she decided to apply with the Red Cross (RC). While Paula was waiting on the status of her application she went to the Baptist Church and took training they offered for cooking during disasters and chain sawing. She continued to call the Red Cross and finally was approved as a volunteer and was trained before she knew it. Paula’s first volunteering experiences with the Red Cross started locally on a Disaster Action Team (DAT), which helps families recovering from local disasters such as apartment fires. Paula quickly became a DAT Captain, which gave her the responsibility of being on call and being one of the first points of contact during a local disaster. As a DAT Captain it was her responsibility to call and gather the other volunteers to meet at local home disasters to assist those affected, and to report cases back to her local RC office. Paula’s first National Deployment with the RC was for Hurricane Issac. During Issac Paula was deployed as an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) driver, but ended up doing Sheltering as any good Red Crosser does she went where she was needed.

A typical deployment for a RC volunteer is two or three weeks of time. Paula however is anything other than typical as she has spent months deployed. When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in late October of 2011 Paula deployed to help yet again. There she assisted with mass feeding in Staten Island for about 19 days. Paula returned home then deployed again to New York City and assisted with the first part of the bridge program where she assisted NYC Housing Authority in entering families into their portal. After returning home from her second deployment with Sandy, she returned yet again for her third deployment, which started in January. This is where I got the pleasure of meeting Paula first hand. Paula and I were partnered up to help assist in delivering Client Assistance Cards (CAC) to the families that were still displaced and living in hotels to help assist them with food for their families. At this time there were still about 700 families living in hotels. Paula and I at the time were in charge of contacting, meeting, and delivering CACs and Metro Cards for the bus and subway systems to the families living in hotels in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. We became regulars at the hotels with both the staff and clients staying there. After I left NYC in mid February Paula continued to stay and help with few minimal short-lived trips back home, she stayed a few more months till the end of the Disaster Relief Operation (DRO).

Since Sandy Paula has helped in apartment and house fires, the tornado in North East Arkansas, the Tornado in Lincoln County TN, the floods in Western TN, and the tornados in Indiana this past Spring. From the different phases of response & relief to a disaster Paula has found that she really enjoys doing the Recovery phase of Client Case Work, but is always up for a challenge and always wanting to learn, experience, and help others in new was. More recently Paula has completed an 8-week course in Disaster Services Technology (DST) to setup satellites and communication services for future DROs. Although Paula is not hoping for a disaster to affect anywhere and anyone, she is currently hoping to deploy and help at the next disaster to come. When asked what her favorite part of doing what she does is, Paula stated that she receives satisfaction from working with clients and bringing a ray of sunshine to those who feel that a darkness that has fallen upon them. She also stated, “Seeing how many folks have a heart to help folks is ahhhmazing too.” “The brutal truth is when I found that I could not work any more… I began to feel useless… volunteering has helped to give my life purpose again… it has been very good for me.”

 

Paula is a very thoughtful, humble, and kindhearted person who has touched many lives and been touched by many others’ lives as well. Even with my conversation with Paula about herself she brought a compliment to me, which warmed my heart “I learned to hug again… because of you.” Paula you are an amazing individual, on behalf of all of those you have helped and all of those who you will help… THANK YOU!

 

Written by Pozzyviber Tiffany R.

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