By Gordon Williams
Red Cross volunteer Janice Chapman was warned on the afternoon of Sunday, September 6 that she might be deployed to a wildfire in Eastern Washington. The call to deploy came early the next morning. “I was just finishing my coffee,” Janice said. Within hours, she was on her way to Wenatchee, WA where she manages non-congregate sheltering for the Red Cross.
What does non-congregate mean? “We are sheltering clients in hotels instead of their sleeping on cots on some school gym floor,” she explained. During COVID19, the Red Cross is sheltering clients in ways that keep them separated as much as possible and that minimize direct contact with staff.
Janice had 53 people in her shelter when we talked on September 10, down from a peak of 90 when Red Cross sheltering in Wenatchee first began.
Janice first came to the Red Cross in 2014 after a career managing websites. Her first Red Cross deployment was in 2017 when she went to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The trek to Wenatchee was the ninth time she has volunteered in the field for the Red Cross.
Janice was asked how conditions were in Wenatchee. “Not too bad,” she said. “The smoke isn’t as heavy as it could be. You can’t see very far, but conditions have not been terrible.” The wildfire situation in Washington is fluid and evolving quickly, so Janice does not know when the last clients will be sent home. In the meantime, both clients and Red Cross workers are being kept safe from wildfires and the COVID19 virus.