In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, dozens of individuals have been lining up locally to become American Red Cross volunteers. For some, it’s a first time experience, while others are refreshing their training.
Still others are already in the trenches, and loving every minute of it.
Meet the Hinds.
“My name is Kaffey,” said Kaffey Hinds, introducing herself. “It’s K-a-f-f-e-y. And, this is my husband Lee.”
Lee and Kaffey Hinds moved to Florida about 13 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri. Their reason for moving to the Sunshine state is ‘pretty’ common.
“Retirement. Yeah, looking for some place warm,” Kaffey answered, as her husband chuckled. “And, didn’t know it got cold here, didn’t know about hurricanes either, until we moved here. We were used to the ice storms and tornadoes and things like that.”
The Hinds settled in Milton in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Ivan in 2004. But, it wasn’t until about 18 months ago that they decided to become Red Cross volunteers.
“The same day we came down to do orientation with Sheila Mitchell, they called us as soon as we got home,” Kaffey Hinds said. “We sat down at the computer to sign on and she told us about the tornado up in Century, and we went and worked the shelter that evening up in Century and stayed there.”
Following that Feb. 15, 2016 twister that hit the Town of Century, the couple conducted disaster assessments and performed other jobs as part of the Red Cross response. Then, about a week later, on Feb. 23, another tornado ripped through Pensacola.
“And, so we also worked the sheltering a little bit here and also doing a little bit of casework and also going out doing disaster assessments,” said Kaffey.
Their first deployment was to the Tallahassee area, one year ago, in response to Hurricane Hermine.
“We went all over the Tallahassee area and also down to areas we’d never even heard of,” said Lee Hinds, as his wife chimed in. “To Taylor County and Monticello. You know, you see the towns as you’re passing down on (I-10) on the highway, but you never go down to these little towns. We got a chance to go down to those little towns.”
In short, you never know where you’ll be going, and according to Lee Hinds, once you’re on the ground after a disaster, you can’t predict what’s next.
“You’re working with this one group of people or family, then they’ll say ‘well.’ Like one girl, she said, ‘well, my father lives just right around the corner,’ you know, so we went over there,” he said.
“And, we were doing a disaster assessment there, then his neighbor wanted one and we did one over there. So, you never know exactly what’s going to happen while you’re there. But, you have to take care of all the people that needs it at that time.”
I met Lee and Kaffey Hinds last week, during a check on volunteer training at the Pensacola office of the American Red Cross of Pensacola as Hurricane Irma approached Florida. They stuck their heads in during a training session, sharing a bit of their story and offering a word of encouragement and a pitch to the new volunteers.
“You meet a lot of new people. A lot of them,” they said. “And, if you become a permanent member, besides the temporaries here, you get to travel, so, yeah.”
At the time of their visit, the Hinds were ‘decked out’ in the iconic Red Cross vests. They were coming back from a morning assignment, staging supplies for Hurricane Irma to be ready here at home or wherever.
“If we’re needed to go out somewhere, we’ve got the trailers loaded up and can send them out to where is needed,” said the Hinds in regards to the work they were doing.
“Because, it’s always best to be prepared, because you never know what’s going to happen. So, as long as we get the stuff ready and they say ‘well, you need to be here or there,’ we can just hook up the trailer and go.”
Wherever the Hinds have been in the last year and a half as Red Cross volunteers, the experiences have been very rewarding.
“We like helping people, interacting with people, and just to see when a person is in crisis and somebody helps them a little bit, the smiles that you get does it all,” said Lee Hinds.
Further, Kaffey Hinds explained that it’s that short connection with children in the shelters. She has some of the kids’ drawings on their refrigerator.
As for what’s next, in the short-run, the Hinds expect to be busy with some other charities they’re involved with.
After that, they’ll be ready to go wherever the Red Cross needs them.
To find out more about become a Red Cross volunteer or to make a donation to the Hurricane Irma disaster relief fund, visit www.redcross.org.