By Stephanie Heckman, Red Cross Public Relations Intern
For the past seven years, Melody Brent has been a volunteer for the partnership between the American Red Cross and the Medical Reserve Corps. After Hurricane Sandy struck, she left her small-town Ohio home to work as the director for the largest shelter in Long Island, New York.
For nearly a month, Melody managed the two-floor shelter at Nassau Community College that housed around 1,200 people. During their busiest times, her volunteers would feed up to 900 people in a single day.
“These people have lost everything,” Melody said. “I had a place to come to when all of that was over with and done. Giving up a little bit of my time was not much compared to what all those people had to go through.”
After such a disaster as Hurricane Sandy occurs, organizations as the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) and other government agencies and charities must work together to ensure that all victims receive proper shelter, food, mental health care and other necessities.
The goal for the shelters is to help the clients feel normalcy and become established after experiencing such a life-altering catastrophe.
“It was my responsibility to see that when FEMA came in, they brought enough people and computers so that everything could be processed faster. One day they only brought six people, so I asked them to bring in more. The next day, they brought in 24 people with computers. I was ecstatic,” Melody said.
Although she said “there’s always room for improvement” after a disaster, she is happy to say that everything is “going well” after Hurricane Sandy. Melody has also managed emergency shelters in Ohio; she even opened up a local shelter that helped victims during mass power outages. She said that she enjoyed working on a larger scale, helping to do mass care after a disaster.
Melody is a nurse by profession but chooses to devote her time to volunteering to help victims of disaster relief. To become the most effective shelter director, she has been trained by the Red Cross and FEMA to do community emergency response, casework management, kitchen supervision, life support, volunteer reception and psychological first aid.
Melody was raised in a family of doctors and nurse who instilled in her the desire to help others. She spent three decades as a hospice volunteer and now spends her time between helping others with disaster relief, child abuse prevention and representing the Lions Club at the UN. Her life-long service and dedication to her community is being recognized by the Red Cross with a Hero’s Breakfast.
“I just want to be a part of helping people, especially after they are negatively affected. It makes it easier to want to help people if you realize that we all want to be treated the same,” Melody said. “It’s my passion just to be there for other folks; I’m a servant.”