When disaster strikes, the Red Cross responds, and last month’s flooding in West Virginia was no exception. Nearly 500 Red Crossers answered the call to help those in need, many of whom were focused on providing safe shelter, hot meals, and emergency supplies. But some volunteers, like Vince Calcara, a disaster mental health team worker from the Mohawk Valley, were there to provide a different kind of relief.

Vince was deployed from his home in Sherrill, NY to Charleston, WV in late June 2016. From Charleston, he traveled to Sulfur Springs, Rupert, and Rainelle to support the Red Cross flood response.  Vince described each and every place he visited as devastated.

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“Businesses were closed down, there was debris everywhere, and there were trucks cleaning the mud from all over the place.”

A wide array of community groups quickly came together to help tackle the variety of issues at hand.  As Vince and his fellow volunteers became better acquainted with the situation and the community around them, they began developing resource lists and going door-to-door to offer help to those impacted by the floods.

As a trained mental health professional, Vince’s main responsibility was to provide comfort to those going through an incredibly emotional ordeal. He noted that the people he met were often optimistic, explaining that despite the tragic events they had just been through, they felt grateful for their safety.  Vince explained the importance of validating people’s feelings, rather than analyzing them, to help reinforce the positive outlook maintained by so many.

Vince has been volunteering with the Red Cross since 2001, and has been deployed more than 20 times in the last 15 years. With so much experience responding to disasters, plus his mental health expertise, he is able offer guidance and support to his fellow Red Crossers as well.

“Knowing that not only the clients are appreciative, but the staff too, makes volunteering so much more,” he says.

Vince took on more than 100 cases during his two week deployment, meaning that he was there to provide emotional support and mental health services to more than 100 West Virginia families after the floods. As a former member of the National Guard, Vince is used to being deployed for weeks at a time, but he says it’s imperative to “go home, drink the water, re-energize and re-group” between missions. When disaster strikes again, Vince will be ready to answer the call.

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