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We all know the Red Cross responds to natural disasters through stories and pictures that generate horror, sympathy for lives that were lost or uprooted, admiration for selfless dedication of volunteers, and the dreadful conditions in which they worked. However, they were also remote, happening to other people in other places. In February of 2007, my concept of the Red Cross was forever changed.

I know as I look back on this year, I will regard it as one of the most transformational experiences of my life.

Students from Laconia High School in New Hampshire are well on their way to the creation of a DVD that will contain blueprints and critical information to be used by emergency services. In addition to creating a new emergency brochure for parents, students are using state-of-the-art Computer Aided Drafting software and laser measuring tools to create detailed floor plans and 3-D views of each room in the high school.

It was our second day on the Thrivent Builds with the Habitat for Humanity site in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and already the house that my Thrivent Financial for Lutherans colleagues and I were constructing was taking shape. What was simply a foundation when we arrived the day before now had a floor and walls.

Another intense storm had hit in the night, filling the church’s window-wells with water that flowed over the roof’s rain gutters. For the next several hours all of us were mopping, vacuuming, and baling water to protect the reconstructed walls and flooring from the need to be demolished and replaced again. It brought back many difficult memories of fighting the 1993 floods, but this time we won.

I’ve done everything from coordinating search and rescue activities to cleaning up and carrying out the trash. After a transfer to Hugo, Colorado, my latest unique volunteer opportunity began.

“With Ike’s devastation still so fresh on everyone’s mind, we are experiencing an increase in interest from people that desire to participate in training,” said Mark Sloan. “Current students in our class feel we are giving them more insight and greater ability to respond to disasters.”

Find a whole new community at your local Veterans Administration facility. They will welcome you with open arms - and there is BBQ!

Our first mission was to inform the local community, who for the most part, were unaware that the purpose of the USO was to make a ‘Home Away from Home ‘ for our military service members and their families many of whom were away from home for the first time in their lives. Deployments for six or more months at sea or years in the war zones were highly stressful for both they and their loved ones. This was what the USO was created to support during WW ll.

Mother organizes her community to knit 130 helmet liners for her son's fellow troops in Afghanistan.

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