2009 grad works for Red Cross in Texas
August 31, 2017

When Trent Shafer ’09 was working on the inaugural Relay For Life of Culver, little did he realize that it would lead him on a career path of public service. Now as a development operations specialist for the Red Cross in the Central and South Texas Region, he has literally been in the eye of storm dealing with Hurricane Harvey for the past week.

Since Harvey headed for Texas, Shafer has been working non-stop. Last Friday, the agency was training extra volunteers in anticipation of the devastation to come. While he has been with the Red Cross since September, 2014, working in Disaster Services and Development Services, Shafer has only been in the Texas regional office for three months. He is based in Austin.

Shafer is one of the approximately 300 Culver alumni and families in the region who are impacted by the hurricane. He took time Wednesday afternoon to answer a few email questions about what is happening in Houston and the surrounding area.

Q: What kind of assistance is the Red Cross providing and what is the estimate on those people being served?

Shafer: “The Red Cross responds on the scene of emergencies to help provide for the urgent needs of disaster victims. Right after a disaster, we focus on providing safe shelter and feeding people. After the storm passes, we will be offering emotional support and health services, and distributing emergency relief supplies such as comfort kits and cleaning supplies. But our work doesn’t end there; the Red Cross also plays a critical role in helping families and communities get back on their feet.

“The first priority for the Red Cross is keeping people safe by providing shelter, food and a shoulder to lean on. Last night (Tuesday), at least 32,000 people sought refuge in more than 230 Red Cross and partner shelters across Texas. We’ve served more than 180,000 meals and snacks since the storm began, and deployed 200 Emergency Response vehicles which will assist in delivering food, and supplies to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. More than 1,500 volunteers are on the ground in Texas and Louisiana, and more help is on the way. Our partners at the Mexican Red Cross are helping to provide support and connect with Spanish speaking disaster survivors as an additional line of assistance.”

A Red Cross shelter in Houston. (photos from Trent Shafer)

Q: Is there anything unusual you are seeing due to the flooding/tremendous amount of rainfall? Anything that really strikes you or stays with you?

Shafer: “This is the first major disaster I’ve been so close to since I started working with the Red Cross. It’s already being said that it is quite possibly the most catastrophic disaster in recorded American history. I’m extremely grateful for the hours and hours of disaster response education and training I went through in order to be a part of the effort and to understand how the mission takes action during events like this.

“I think the statement made by one of our senior staff on Sunday has stuck with me most. He said that, “the [flooding and rainfall] has created an inland lake the size of Lake Michigan,” growing up in (Rochester) Indiana that just hit me so hard. This level of rainfall and flooding is breaking all records, in fact on Monday it was reported that flood waters are now higher than they were during Hurricane Katrina. The statement by my coworker, coupled with the National Weather Service having to create a new color for their graphics to show how catastrophic the flooding has been, clearly demonstrates how damaging Harvey has been and will continue to be.”

I think often about three lines in the Culver Code of Conduct, and I actually have had them printed out on my desk since my first day with the Red Cross.”

Q: What led you into this kind of work?

Shafer: “I have to say, I think the spirit of service was something my family taught me growing up, but I believe being a part of the inaugural Culver Relay For Life, with my classmates during our senior service project really fanned that flame. That experience combined with my time as an AmeriCorps member, sold me on a career in the nonprofit sector.

“I think often about three lines in the Culver Code of Conduct, and I actually have had them printed out on my desk since my first day with the Red Cross, ‘…to fulfill the ideal of service to others, to place duty before self, to lead by example and to take care of those I lead…’ Now more than ever, I’ve been reflecting on those words.”

Q: At first glance, it appears we have 300 alumni/families in the impacted areas.

Shafer: “That breaks my heart. I’m devastated that so many of my Culver friends and family are suffering as a result of such a catastrophic event. It just adds another reason to my list, why working for this organization is important, and will keep me working each day as we move down the long road to recovery.”

Culver students, faculty and staff members are currently meeting on campus on how to best assist hurricane victims. People wishing to make an individual donation now may do so here. Shafer said monetary donations allow the agency to make bulk purchases, especially food, and provide immediate assistance.

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