In the worst natural disaster to hit the US since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, communities across Louisiana were hit by over 2ft of rain in 48 hrs.
Just because water starts to go down, doesn’t mean the problem goes away. The Red Cross have over 90 response vehicles in neighborhoods distributing relief supplies. Local officials estimated more than 110,000 homes have been damaged.
Sage colleagues wanted to support the community. Patty McGowan led the way, giving her 5 days volunteering time as a Red Cross volunteer. Sage Foundation have helped further, awarding a disaster grant of $10,000 to the organization.
“I know what it’s like to need a smiling face”
Patty volunteered with the Red Cross for two weeks because, “They are there to help when people are devastated. I know what it’s like to need a smiling face when you feel lost”.
That’s because when she was six, Red Cross volunteers - just like Patty now - helped her family when their New Jersey home was flooded after a dam broke.
“Everyone in my neighborhood lost so much. Adults were sorting through the mess and the Red Cross brought us food and water. It was a relief; one less thing to worry about when everything they worked so hard for was gone”.
That is why Patty had to act.She knew devastating trauma lingers.She says, “That is why it mattered to me, that is why I needed to take action”.
“I told him it was ok. He can do it”
Patty admits she felt the pressure. But it was a responsibility she took on with pride. She knew what she was doing mattered.
“When I started to visit the shelters, that was heart breaking at first, but so satisfying. When I was able to help find people a place to live, money, clothes, food, or just listen. Everyone knew I was there to help and I would stop at nothing”.
She recalls one of the many people she was able to support.
“I worked with a man who had just become a single dad. He felt like he couldn’t make it; he couldn’t be what he needed to be. I told him it’s ok to be scared, telling him he can do it and giving him the confidence he needed just to make it through the next hour”.
“We handled everything and anything that came in”
For the first week, Patty worked with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and local partners getting immediate relief out. She would take calls from residences, working with Emergency Operation Managers to ensure help got to the neighborhoods that needed it the most.
Starting the day with exercise to keep her focused and resilient, the team meeting at 7am set priorities.Patty recalls, “Then we went at it, handling everything and anything that came in”.
In the second week, Patty went on the road meeting people and spending every moment she could at a shelter.
In the shelter, she knew the hours were worth it.
“A man came into the shelter two weeks after the flood. I sat with him and he told me he had lost everything. He was sleeping in a tent, he was diabetic and didn’t have any more medicine. We immediately got him his medicine and made sure he didn’t have to stay in the shelter. I gave him food, hygiene products and clothes. The hug I received was a hug I will always remember”.
“I was able to concentrate on what I was doing; my manager had my back”
Grateful is the word Patty keeps returning to. It was an extraordinary situation she found herself in, but one where she was using familiar skills.
“I am so grateful that I had this opportunity, there were not many people my age volunteering, and when I explained that Sage had given me 5 days, people were surprised.I was afforded an opportunity many people just aren’t”.
“At Sage, troubleshooting and getting problems resolved quickly and efficiently is a huge part of my job. Thinking about the outcome of each step is another aspect of my job. This is exactly what I did in Louisiana, just different problems, but thinking about the outcome and the results”.
Patty also knew she had the support of those closest to her at Sage. Her manager gave his consent for Patty to volunteer after she got the call from the Red Cross.
“Because I had the support of my line-manager and colleagues, I was able to concentrate on what I was doing, knowing they all had my back”.
Now back with her team and delivering for Sage, Patty has a clear message for all colleagues:
“Sage offers us days to help our community. When you take them and use them for something you’re passionate about, there is no better way to look after your mental health and resilience than that”.