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Volunteering changes resident into Wonder Woman

By chirst
Jan. 4, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 3, 2013 at 7:04 p.m.

Marilyn Kabela talks about her time volunteering at the American Red Cross next to a vintage recruitment sign in her office at the American Red Cross Crossroads Chapter office in Victoria. "It feels weird now if I stay at home," Kabela, who has been volunteering with the organization for about 8 years.

Jodi Lewis, 62, is a homemaker.

But with a single phone call, she said, she can transform into a superhero.

"The Red Cross gives you that opportunity to be more than you think you can be. It gives you the opportunity to play Wonder Woman or Superman in someone's life," Lewis said.

The Port Lavaca grandmother has been a volunteer for the American Red Cross Crossroads Chapter for three years - responding to house fires, missing children and other area disasters.

She left the Crossroads in November, however, to volunteer on the Jersey Shore with hundreds of other Red Cross volunteers from as far away as Scotland.

"When I got there, I kept thinking, 'Where is the devastation?' Because they brought me in from Pennsylvania. But then, once I crossed over the bridges to the Jersey Shore, I saw the devastation and was floored. It is going to be years before it is right again," she said.

Lewis worked on distribution, passing out food and working supplies to police officers, the National Guard and the residents when they were allowed to return home.

"The hardest moment was when I was working with a woman whose husband's casket had been unearthed by a fallen tree. That was the hardest moment because I didn't know how to help her, except to hold her," Lewis said.

Despite the hard moments, Lewis said the Red Cross has changed her life.

"It gives you a feeling of self-worth," she said. "Here I am, a homemaker; what can I do to change the world? But I can change someone's world."

Linda May, emergency services director of the American Red Cross Crossroads Chapter, said despite the many rewards, they are short on volunteers.

May, the only staff woman in a six-county coverage area, has about 40 active volunteers.

She needs at least 20 to 25 more, she said, but could never have too many.

"Once something happens, it is too late. They need to be trained before disasters happen," May said.

She said the Red Cross even accepts junior volunteers starting at age 13.

The training, provided by the American Red Cross, is free, and many classes are offered online.

May is offering a training in-house, however, for new volunteers at the end of January.

"Victoria is a giving community; it is a wonderful city. We take care of our people. But I think the best thing I've learned is what a rewarding feeling it is to help someone," May said.



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