EMPTY STOCKING FUND: Red Cross volunteer helps people in need

by Jesse Paul Special to The Gazette - Published: December 22, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

This is one of a series of stories about the nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.

Kathleen Sharkey doesn't have much down time at work.

Sharkey, a disaster action team captain and the head of all individual client services for the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross, is constantly helping people in the Pikes Peak region.

On Friday alone, she was monitoring the impact of two structure fires in Colorado Springs.

"So many of our clients that we assist, they say something like "I never thought I'd be needing help from the Red Cross," Sharkey said. "It actually could be you someday."

The local chapter offers relief to disaster victims while helping to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies by providing a wide range of community-based programs. As a worldwide organization, the American Red Cross assists people across the globe.

Sharkey's job - which is mainly based around fire response - has her monitoring local fire departments' Twitter feeds, fielding phone calls from people in need and overseeing volunteers who respond to devastating events.

With two summers of costly and destructive wildfires, Sharkey and her staff have been "a lot busier than we want to be, especially this summer."

Floods this fall kept the local Red Cross chapter busy, too.

"I show up at the site with my partner and we assess the needs of the person who has been impacted by the fire and find out their needs," Sharkey said, explaining that the helping hand for the 40-60 calls that her staff oversees each year might be financial, shelter-related, or just interpersonal.

Sharkey's commitment to the community via Red Cross began after she retired as a kindergarten teacher and has spanned eight years. She says she's happy to have found such a great way to contribute to the community.

"I enjoy it immensely," Sharkey's said. "It's very rewarding."

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