For Bryan Smith, volunteering at the Red Cross has been a highly rewarding experience.
So much so, in fact, that Smith knew that he wanted to do something more.
After volunteering with the Ohio River Valley chapter of the American Red Cross for over three years, Smith got the opportunity to do just that as the 2000 Shawnee State University Sports Studies graduate was named as the newest Disaster Program Specialist for the American Red Cross back in late May.
“For myself, it’s definitely an honor to be named as the newest disaster program specialist,” Smith said of the new position. “I’ve been a volunteer with the Red Cross for the past three years on other aspects, and this came open. We do a lot of stuff that people don’t realize. Any home fires that we get called out to, or need to assist on, we respond. I thoroughly enjoy working for the areas that we cover. It’s a very rewarding job and it’s great to go out and help individuals in need.”
Smith, who covers a six-county radius that includes Adams, Brown, Jackson, Lawrence, and Pike in addition to Scioto County, has proven himself as a person who is invested in Southern Ohio, as Smith — who earned a Master’s Degree in Classroom Teaching at Rio Grande, served as the head coach of the women’s soccer program at Shawnee State from 1999 to 2006, taught math at Scioto County Career Technical Center from 2003 to 2006, and was in the Ohio National Guard for nine years in addition to other various work experiences prior to beginning his volunteer work with the organization.
During his short time as the Disaster Program Specialist for the six-county area, Smith has already had to assist several families by either providing monetary assistance or by directing individuals to services aligned with the Red Cross.
“The biggest part about it was providing hope and any assistance that I could, whether it be monetary or with the connections that we had through different organizations,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of churches who assist in providing food and clothing, there’s Goodwill, there’s Salvation Army, and Jobs and Family Services. We just try to say, ‘Hey, you can do this or that. But you’ve got to put some initiative and do it as well.”
In one instance back on June 23, a family, according to Smith, lost its entire house by the time he got there. Luckily, Smith said the family had several sets of family members that were located within steps of the residence.
“It was kind of crazy because basically, their house was here, and they had eight other families within the same neighborhood that they were related to,” Smith said. “They had somewhere that they were going to stay, and they didn’t have to worry about relocating to a hotel or another place right away. They also had insurance on the house, which was good. But what really was bad was the contents that they lost — they pretty much lost everything that they had in the house. But they’ll be fine. They’ll be ok.”
However, other families may not be so lucky, especially when one considers the lack of volunteers available for such a wide area. It is a two hour, two minute drive from Winchester to Symmes Valley. Brown and former disaster program specialist Eddie Helphinstine are, at times, the only pair available to make the trips. And despite being part-time workers, the pair have had to work 12 to 16 hour days just to cover the areas needed.
“We rely heavily on volunteers, and we, at the present time, have very few,” Helphinstine said. “We’ve worked 13 out of the last 14 days. We need volunteers.”
“We can only be at so many places,” Smith said. “And we are serving six counties. That’s a wide area.”
Even so, Smith and Helphinstine enjoy what they do — because it helps brings hope and stability to the lives of others.
“That feeling of hopelessness when a person has had the worst day of his or her life and lost everything in a home fire, and the American Red Cross shows up and provides that person with a sense of hope and financial assistance that will get them through the next couple of days, is a special feeling, not only for the person that is being helped, but for the person who is helping,” Helphinstine said. “We need people to serve the community and to help people through the worst days of their lives.”
For more information about the Red Cross or how to get involved, contact Bryan Smith at (740) 354-3293.