Keeping Busy in Retirement as a Disaster Action Team Volunteer

By Michelle Mohr, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region

Carol Gottlieb loves solving problems. It’s what she did for decades as a corporate IT professional until her retirement a few years ago, and what she does now as an American Red Cross volunteer. 

After becoming a Disaster Assistance Team volunteer in 2013, Carol quickly moved into Disaster Assessment, where she put her problem-solving skills to work, calculating the resources needed for people affected by home fires and natural disasters. 

“If there was a family of three who lost everything in a home fire, for instance, we’d need to figure out how many shoes, how many pairs of underwear, how many diapers they’d need to get by–in addition to making sure they had food, water, medicine and a safe place to stay,” said Carol. 

Carol Gottleib helping a resident impacted by storms in Alabama – September 2019
Photo Courtesy of Carrol Gottleib

Carol has also leaned on her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree to help her solve problems for those affected by disasters. 

“The first shelter I volunteered at as a supervisor was a few years ago in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after a Gulf Coast hurricane. It was particularly traumatic for those who were affected, because they didn’t know if they’d have a home to go back to,” said Carol. “One young woman, Maria, wanted to remain in Texas. I got her connected with a job and an apartment so she and her two kids could stay in the area. This was my MSW being used.” 

But sometimes solving problems simply requires nothing more than a kind ear. “It’s important to know when to sit and listen to the people we’re serving,” said Carol. “A lot of times, they just need to talk.”

And sometimes they need a hug. “I like giving people warmth, support and hugs,” said Carol. “I hate that we can’t do that right now because of the pandemic.” 

Ultimately, what motivates Carol’s volunteering is, as she puts it, “Selfishness.  I enjoy so much giving back to people in an unfortunate time, and the relationships I’ve made over the years with fellow Red Crossers. It makes me feel good.”

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