By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma is no stranger to crisis. The state has come together to help its residents in their time of need through the work of individuals and agencies.
Jennifer Young, a disaster services specialist with the American Red Cross, is one of many who does her part.
“It’s a passion that I’ve always had to assist people in times of crisis, to help them develop that plan to get from where they are back to a stable environment,” she said.
The Oklahoma State University alumna is familiar with crisis, too. She has worked in social services for hospitals including Cushing Regional Hospital for eight years and worked in the Department of Human Services, dealing in child welfare. She has been in her role with the Red Cross since September 2012.
Young said she enjoys providing help to a family when they may have other concerns on their minds.
“They’re worried about where their next meal is going to come from. They’re worried about where they’re going to sleep that night and to be able to be that sense of calm amongst the storm,” Young said.
However, it takes a level-headed person to take on the position.
“Initially, you take the skills and the natural instincts that most people have genuinely,” Young said. “The challenge is to help (them) remain calm because people will feed off the way you react to things.”
Young will assist families and individuals in determining their next step. While the May tornadoes have taken center stage, Young said the organization also handles day-to-day occurrences such as fires destroying homes and property.
“We help everybody,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if they have insurance or don’t have insurance. It doesn’t matter the cause of the fire. We never ask that. We offer the same level of services to everybody.”
Those services can include up to three days worth of hotel accommodations, food and clothing.
“We give financial assistance in the form of a credit card that we will activate at that time, whether that is in the middle of the night when the fire is still burning or if it’s the next day,” she said.
The Red Cross will follow families needing assistance for 15 days and extended periods. However, they have to be requested by families, emergency management or the fire department.
“In the case right now, with the tornadoes, we are actually in the process of moving into long-term recovery where we are going to be following these families for at least a year or to where they need to be,” she said.
As she approaches the end of her first year serving with the Red Cross, Young said there was one thing that surprised her.
“I think one thing that surprised me the most were the number of volunteers that we have now that were once the people affected by the fires and because of what the Red Cross did for them, they are now giving back,” she said.
That has been financially and through volunteering their time, she said.
“Oklahomans love to help Oklahomans,” she said. “We are definitely a role model to the rest of the nation, but we are also a role model to an incredible nation that is not far behind, if at all. We’re just always that constant example of the way it should be and honestly, at the levels that it’s becoming, it’s the way the United States needs to maintain.”
As Young looks forward, she said she’s happy to be part of a group serving communities.
“Is this where I want to be? Absolutely,” she said. “Everyday I’m working side-by-side with people from this community who are here because they want to be. They don’t get paid. They are 100 percent dedicated to helping their neighbors.”
For more information, visit www.redcross.org/ok.