Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Makin' Progress

Good day today. The supply pipeline is finally filling up; national contracts with private suppliers are kicking in, and the Red Cross is now taking the logistics load off of these local churches that have been housing evacuees / huricanees across the Gulf Coast. It is difficult to tell exactly what caused the supply delays; the most likely reason is the sheer scope of the disaster. I will leave the critiques of the government response to others for now. It's difficult to judge I think because the scope is unprecedented, and last year I believe FEMA got high marks for its response in Florida.

Here's a calendar of my day today:

7:00 am: Shelter staff meeting to report on the previous night's 5-county meeting at the warehouse and to flag issues that will come up today.

8:00 am: Time to "redeploy" the cardboard boxes that the emergency cots came in. They had been piled in the hallway near the makeshift health clinic and the nurse wanted them outta there since this was also the waiting area for the clinic. Found a church volunteer to help me with that moving task and found out she was an unemployed kindergarten teacher who had recently moved to Brookhaven from Western Massachusetts.

9:00 am: I talk with the Sysco Food Service representative, to work out a way to drop-ship food directly to this shelter while billing the national Red Cross.

9:30 am: I tell N., a shelter resident from the Gulf Coast who has background in recreation and who has been leading children's activities on his own initiative, that the kindergarten teacher from Western Mass. was interested in coming in to work with the children as well.

10:30 am: A quick run to Wal-Mart to pick up items that are too specific or too timely to be supplied by the local Red Cross logistics base ("log base" for short, sounds cooler than "warehouse," which is what it is.) Tops on the shopping list today is disinfectant hand gel. We have some kids with colds and some with flu symptoms and so need to encourage hand cleanliness now to try to forestall a big problem later. I set up 5 "Clean Hands Stations" around the shelter, each one with a big pump bottle of Germ-X.

11:45 am: Since I have the keys to an SUV, sometimes I am pressed into taxi service. I take an older diabetic man with elevated blood sugar and bad eyesight from the shelter to the emergency room. He and his family are just passing through town and were concerned, so they stopped in at the shelter. The family follows in their car since they don't know the route. Most of them came in contact with flood water at their home in Louisiana, so they will all be getting tetanus shots at the ER as well. Wonderful family; the matriarch and patriarch bickered affectionately throughout.

1:15 pm: A call comes into the shelter from a local barber shop: "I have a relative who lives here in Brookhaven. He's a truck driver, stranded in Illinois by the fuel shortage, and he's going crazy hearing about the shortage of supplies back home. He has arranged to drive a truckload of diapers, infant formula, Neosporin, water, and clothes down to the Gulf and he wants to bring it to Brookhaven if he can." It's important to pounce on these offers because if a local log base doesn't respond right away, the truck driver will call another one, and keep calling until he finds a warehouse ready to receive his truck. So I call the local log base and give them the scoop.

3:30 pm: Meet with the food service manager here at the church to coordinate the supply of food with the menus that she is planning. One free item I can offer her is something called "Chicken Fritters," which we think are probably similar to chicken tenders. They have been donated in a frozen format by a local poultry processor and are sitting in a freezer trailer at the log base.

4:30 pm: The staff desperately needs MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and water to give to random folks needing food who stop by the shelter on their way to somewhere else. I hear through the grapevine that some government entity is handing out MREs and water at the local softball diamond, so I send one of the dozens of church volunteers who are always on hand after them. The MREs are designed to somehow heat themselves up when you add a bit of water. I haven't tried one yet but I intend to.

5:30 pm: My first shipment from the local Red Cross log base arrives: toilet paper, two car seats, a wheelchair, blankets, crayons, trash bags, cleaning supplies, liquid hand soap, deodorant, a cube refrigerator to store drugs in the clinic, and other assorted odds and ends. Not everything I asked for but a good part of it. The log base doesn't do back orders, which is good, actually, because sometimes something I ordered from them will show up in the meantime from some other source. If I still need an item, I can just re-order it tonight.

6:00 pm: Quick check-in with the Red Cross health services guy who is traveling around from shelter to shelter supplying specialized medical supplies. He brought a bunch of stuff today: inhalers, insulin, lancets, syringes, disposable otoscope covers, Pedialite, sharps box, etc. The "clinic," which is in a room normally used for meetings of the church's Budget Committee, is now finally starting to look like a clinic.

6:30 pm: Dinner: Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, and cake.

7:00 pm: Begin preparing for the 5-county meeting tonight at the warehouse. I need to put together another order from the local Red Cross log base and also prepare a memo outlining the drop-ship arrangement I've made with Sysco.

8:00 pm: Five-county Red Cross meeting at the warehouse. This is where the Red Cross workers from the 5 county region we're in assemble to share information and ask questions of the log base staff. I give my logistics contact my order for today; we go over it and he tells me which things I should procure myself at retail, and which ones he can get to me from the warehouse or other wholesale sources. I take a walk around the warehouse to see what they have on hand, so I can inform the staff back at the shelter and see if they want any of it. There's quite a lot of food now, which I can pass along to the kitchen manager at the shelter. Even though we have this new drop-ship arrangement with Sysco, if we can get non-perishable food from the local log base, we should take advantage of it. I also find out that the Red Cross is turning away used clothing, at least in our area. The same thing has happened at the shelter -- local residents who want to donate clothes are now redirected to another local charity. As we leave, I'm happy to see that one of the two inbound trucks scheduled on the warehouse board is the truck from Illinois that I had handed off to the warehouse staff earlier today.

10:30: Back to the shelter at First Baptist and a chance to use the shower there.

11:00-12:00 Meaningless puttering around and some tomfoolery.


Eve's Apple said...

feeling useless and meaningless up here in Boston...

Karlissimo del Banco said...

You, sir, are awesome.

Much respect.

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