On March 18th, firefighters responded to an apartment fire around 8:45pm in Kalamazoo, MI. The fire was contained to only a few units, but smoke and water damage displaced many of the residents. Red Cross volunteers stepped in shortly after to aid the displaced residents. One of those volunteers is Dan Buchin who served as a Disaster Spiritual Care worker on the operation.
How long have you been with the Red Cross, and what made you want to join?
I have only been with the Red Cross during COVID. I started on May 4th, 2020. I initially got involved as a Blood Donor Ambassador. I wanted to serve my community in a way that was very much needed. Working long hours as a Physician Assistant with the VA never allowed me time to get involved outside of work.
What do Disaster Spiritual Care workers do?
Disaster Spiritual Care providers are ready and willing to be available to clients and staff of many denominations and faith communities. The Red Cross welcomes all, and Spiritual Care follows this practice of assuring a message of neutrality and impartiality. There is never an attempt to convert anyone to any belief system other than where they are. We offer to connect them, if possible, to a religious leader of their choosing in their local community.
What made you want to become a Disaster Spiritual Care worker?
I became an ordained Episcopal priest in 1996 while I was working for the VA. I deployed last fall first to Pensacola Florida for Hurricane Sally and then to Bend Oregon for the fires as a shelter associate. There was a need for Spiritual Care Providers in Oregon so when I got back home, I was interviewed for this position.
What were some of the things you did during this disaster?
The DR in Kalamazoo was different because I was deployed virtually. There are not the opportunities to be with the clients as I would like. But I was able to reach out to all those with a telephone number and an ability for text messages or emails. This allowed me to reach out to many of clients who were not in the shelter but residing with family or friends.
What is your favorite thing you get to do as Disaster Spiritual Care with the Red cross?
My favorite part is when I am there in dual roles. Because if I am delivering meals or sitting in the shelter lobby and visiting with the clients, I let them know I am also there as a Red Cross spiritual care provider. As the days go on, feelings of frustration, anxiety, and the sense of loss may start to manifest. They know that I am willing to be with them even if they do not actually ask for prayer.
Is there anything from this disaster operation that stood out to you?
One of the responses had a client who was very fragile, and the apartment fire only exacerbated this. Through frequent check-ins with myself, DHS, and DMH, the shelter supervisor, and case management, a recovery plan was put into place for counselling appointments, transportation, and a visit with his healthcare provider.