When your family is in desperate need, Pat Moore’s there

As volunteer coordinator for the American Red Cross Santa Clara

When a Gilroy family is out in the cold because its house has
burned down, Pat Moore is the one who brings the possibility of a
warm meal, a place to sleep, or clothing.
As volunteer coordinator for the American Red Cross Santa Clara
Valley chapter in South County, Moore is on call 24 hours a day,
ready to show up at any local emergency with the services needed
then and there.
When a Gilroy family is out in the cold because its house has burned down, Pat Moore is the one who brings the possibility of a warm meal, a place to sleep, or clothing.

As volunteer coordinator for the American Red Cross Santa Clara Valley chapter in South County, Moore is on call 24 hours a day, ready to show up at any local emergency with the services needed then and there.

“It gets them on their feet and gives them a few days to gather their thoughts together,” said Moore, 50. “It feels good knowing you can help just being there. To be there for people is the biggest thing.”

Moore got started with the Red Cross about five years ago and eventually became the volunteer coordinator because, as a full-time engineering manager for a biomedical company, that’s where he feels comfortable, he said. First, he took a weekend CPR class, and when the organization offered him more classes, and the opportunity to teach some, he jumped at the chance.

“The American Red Cross covers the entire Santa Clara County, and South County is kind of part of it, but it’s separate,” Moore said. “One of the things they’re concerned about is, for instance, if we have a major quake, if any one of the overpasses goes down, South County will be isolated from the rest of the county.”

To prepare for that possibility, the Red Cross has established Disaster Action Teams. Two captains manage such teams in Morgan Hill, and Moore is the lead in Gilroy. One of the disadvantages to emergency preparedness in California is a lack of practice when compared with volunteers in other regions of the country, Moore said. For example, on the east coast, volunteers frequently face hurricanes, ice storms, or heat waves, while local volunteers must be ready for things like earthquakes or summer fires that strike without warning. Moore operated emergency shelters at two such fires – the Croy fire in 2002, and a fire at a migrant housing center last summer.

“I’m just proud that I can help these people,” Moore said. “Everybody takes it differently, and sometimes, it can be gut-wrenching, depending on the circumstances. I’m just glad I’m able to provide some comfort to listen, to try to comfort them with what they’re going through and to try to get them back on the road to recovery.”

In his volunteer work, Moore sees the importance of a strong family support system. At one recent fire, a family requested Red Cross services, and though they didn’t need shelter, clothing, or financial support, they chose to speak with a mental health worker experienced in dealing with emergencies.

“Even if we supply nothing, it immediately opens a case within the Red Cross. So if someone decides they need something later on, there’s a referral,” Moore said.

He currently manages fewer than 100 volunteers, what he calls a low volume. A couple of them are familiar faces: His wife and elder of two sons are Disaster Action Team responders.

New volunteers are put into contact with Moore, who helps them find their niche. Volunteers handle a variety of jobs, from assisting caseworkers to assessing damage or staffing blood drives.

“The American Red Cross uses all types of volunteers, from people who do basic office work, to those people that have professional degrees, such as nursing and mental health,” Moore said. “Particularly people who have a working specialty: You’re good with computers, or you’re good with people, or you can donate two or three days a week, and just want to be around people. If one niche isn’t good for you, there’s another that is.”

He recommends potential volunteers assess whether they have the time available before getting involved. With a small percentage of its staff paid a salary, the Red Cross constantly depends on volunteers.

Fifty South County volunteers travel nationally, and even internationally, to help with disaster situations elsewhere – including last year’s hurricanes and flooding.

“That just strengthens our own local chapter, when people come back and can benefit from those experiences,” Moore said.

Those volunteers focus on more than just responding to emergencies, they do what they can to help prevent them. Instructors in fire safety, earthquake preparedness, and disaster preparedness go out into the community to educate residents where they’re comfortable – churches, rotaries, health fairs, even daycare facilities.

Next month, Moore will be speaking about fire safety at a Gilroy mobile home park that experienced a fire last year. Another mobile home fire has been one of the most difficult emergencies to which Moore has responded, he said. A single mother of four was away from home when a fire started in the trailer next door. When she returned, she and her family were homeless. Her children had escaped, but one of them was to celebrate a birthday that night.

“It pains you to see these people hurting,” Moore said. “We did everything we could to get them settled: Got them a motel room, replacement clothing, and food. As much as people like to see the fire department show up in cases like that, sometimes the Red Cross is looked at the same way.”

For all the interviews, classes and emergencies Moore will manage this year, plus paperwork, he expects to accumulate as many as 800 volunteer hours this year, though he said it passes quickly when spread out between an hour or two each night. Part of that time is dedicated to yet another voluntary role of Moore’s: Managing the Gilroy Police Department’s Volunteers in Policing program. His role there inspired his younger son to join the police Explorers, a program that teaches youth about law enforcement.

When you love to volunteer, you make the time, Moore said.

“My own natural drive just made me want to get in and help. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it, and both organizations appreciate their volunteers, and that makes it easy to make that decision to stay with it. It really is enjoyable.”

Red Cross by the numbers

• The American Red Cross needs 250 donors each day to meet the needs of patients at 16 hospitals in Santa Clara County, including Saint Louise Regional Hospital, and 11 in the East Bay.

• As many as three lives may be saved with each blood donation

• Every three minutes, someone in the Northern California region requires a transfusion

• Only 2 to 3 percent of eligible people in Northern California donate blood, but 60 percent qualify

• An estimated half of all Americans will need a transfusion at some point in their lives

• The average red blood cell transfusion is 3.4 pints

• The average adult has 10 pints of blood in his or her body

• Blood shortages might be prevented if all blood donors gave blood two to four times a year

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