Red Cross column: The face of hope and humanitarian aid

March 24, 2019

Born and raised on a dairy farm in southeast Idaho, Shauna Ringel learned to work hard at an early age. Coming from a big family of nine brothers and sisters, she also learned that she is happiest when she is surrounded by people.

Throughout her life Shauna worked in various capacities for the Idaho government. Some of her positions included Madison County courthouse clerk, marriage license clerk, election clerk and Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) member. It was during her time at the LEPC that the county Sheriff and Fire Chief first asked her to become a liaison between Madison County and the Red Cross. With her love of people, it was easy to accept.

Shauna worked as a team lead for the Eastern Idaho Disaster Team, where she oversaw four counties. She continued with her full-time job, and anytime there was a disaster nearby, she was allowed to leave work to go help.

For nine out of the past 10 years, Shauna has been deployed by the Red Cross. Each deployment lasted two weeks. To make this possible while she still worked, Shauna would use one week of paid vacation, and Madison County would pay for an additional week. The Red Cross would pay for her transportation, personal expenses such as meals and provide her with a place to sleep, usually a bed in a shelter. People were often shocked to learn that Shauna was using up her vacation time to be out on a site helping.

Shauna has served in many different areas of the Red Cross. She has taught preparedness classes for third- to fifth-graders through the Pillowcase Project that teaches grade-schoolers preparedness and installed fire alarms in homes as part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. If that’s not enough, she helped run shelter exercises and conducted business checks to rate how ready a company is for an emergency through the Red Cross Ready Rating Program. Shauna said there’s something for everyone at the Red Cross.

Through all her roles, she has found her passion in the disaster services program of the Red Cross. The disaster program volunteers provide relief to those affected by natural or human-caused disasters. They call themselves the second responders. After the first responders tackle their jobs, the Red Cross disaster team comes in with their red vests offering comfort and care to all affected.

“People are always happy to see you. They are mostly stunned by the help you can offer them,” Shauna said. The support provided by these volunteers can vary from delivering kits with toiletries or food, or helping financially with finding a motel, or referring them to another non-profit that can assist in their needs. Shauna loves to see all the different organizations coming together for the greater good of the community and individuals.

In 2017, along with a fellow volunteer, Shauna drove an emergency response vehicle down to Houston to provide aid to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. The journey took four days. While there, she helped prepare hot meals twice a day. That same year, she also received the high honor of being named volunteer of the year for the state of Utah.

Last summer, Shauna helped at an evacuation center in Utah for those affected by the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires. She was there to give people updates on the fire, feed them and comfort them. It was the first time in a summer where she was not deployed elsewhere. The need was great here in Utah, and still is. There have been four deaths in Utah due to house fires so far in 2019. Shauna calls that number staggering.

Today, the widowed mother of three is retired and has relocated to Saratoga Springs to be closer to her two daughters. She continues to volunteer with the Red Cross, currently serving as the volunteer partner for the Disaster Program Manager in the Central Utah Chapter, one of three Chapters in the state for the Red Cross. Together they supervise 12 counties in Utah, where they engage volunteers to serve in numerous ways.

Shauna has enjoyed her past 10 years with the Red Cross. She said it is a wonderful place to improve current skills and learn new ones.

“Everyone in the Red Cross is trained well and cross trained in as many things as they’re interested in,” Shauna said.

“If you want to be involved in one of the most amazing humanitarian groups in the world and really make a difference in someone’s life, come join the Red Cross.” She urges everyone to get involved, both young and old.

“Being with the Red Cross and serving total strangers is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life next to raising my family,” she said. Shauna loves that she can connect with people, wrap a blanket around them, and be a smiling and hope-filled face during someone’s hardest day. Help and hope are what it’s all about. To give time, money or blood, visit http://redcross.org.