Based in the Southeast Michigan Chapter, Linda Dintenfass is the assistant director of external communications for the Red Cross. As part of external relations, it is her job to make sure messages sent to the community and partners of the Red Cross maintain a commonality and a consistency. She manages communications with critical partners, including donors, media, and government agencies, and makes sure the components of external relations are collaborating with each other as well as the other functions within the Red Cross.
Linda, who is from Ann Arbor, MI, became a member of the Red Cross in 2005. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Linda found she couldn’t sit still; she had to do something to help. Soon after she discovered that her local Red Cross was offering opportunities for an intense, condensed training in disaster relief and deployment to areas affected by Katrina, and she got involved.
Disaster deployment for her now means putting her life on hold and quickly rearranging her schedule. Nevertheless, Linda has it down to a science by now. The dogs are sent to daycare. She packs copies of all the paperwork she might need during an operation, both in electronic form and in hard copies in case the area she’s being deployed to do not have internet access. She does her research and checks social media to get a sense of how the disaster is being covered.
One of the things that interests Linda the most about deployment operations comes from doing research: She loves getting to know the communities she is being deployed to. There are many times when she finds herself deployed to places she knows nothing about, so part of her research process has become finding out the history of the area and “chatting her roommate’s ears off” about what she’s found when she gets back to her sleeping arrangements at night.
No two disasters are the same, so gathering this information also helps her prepare for the unique challenges that might come up during deployments--trying to coordinate a disaster response in a state like Kentucky that is split into two different time zones, for example.
“Disaster is the great equalizer,” she said during our interview. “Volunteering has given me the opportunity to help clients in their darkest times.”
Volunteering in disaster relief for the Red Cross has left Linda humbled, and she encourages others to volunteer as well. Working with clients and getting their faith and trust is a huge honor and responsibility, and a constant reminder that, collectively, the volunteers of the Red Cross make a difference in people’s lives.