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Rose L. Retired, Austin Eastside Resident and Katrina Shelter Volunteer 10/28/05

I went to volunteer because we felt like we needed to do something. And it wasn’t to donate a few bucks or a box of food. We were there when the busses started rolling in.

I use a wheelchair and I walk behind it. When I need to, I sit. I had a man come running off the bus begging me to use the chair. I felt so bad, but I had to say, “Sir, I’m sorry but I have to use this wheelchair or else I’ll be stationary. I’m so sorry.” I even had policemen coming up trying to take the chair for people coming off the busses. But I had to keep it—it’s my personal wheelchair. I felt so bad.

My fiancé works six, seven days a week and we are both working on helping whenever we can. We’re tired. But I figure, if we’re tired, we couldn’t begin to know how tired those people were, who suffered. My fiancé works for the city as a welder, and I’m retired. I was injured twenty years ago at my job. In a few seconds my career changed real quick.

We really wanted to do something. We just couldn’t imagine. We were placed in sorting, sorting clothes and supplies. Distribution was next to us, where people could get their clothes. We had a lot of people coming in to where we were at and it was very difficult to tell them they had to go in the next room. Because we had so much around us, and they could see that. But they were all very gracious. Cordial and mild-mannered.

There was one little old man who kept coming in, every couple of hours. He kept asking for clothes, and I kept sending him back to the other room, saying, “I’m sorry sir, but only volunteers are allowed here.” The fourth time he came in, he said he was a volunteer. I said, “Great! See that huge stack of boxes over there? I need that moved to the other side of the Center.” He disappeared real quick. (Laughter) He was funny.

I would hear people saying “Thank you,” a lot.

To do this type of work, or to do any kind of helping like this, you really have to have it deep down in your heart. You can’t do it superficially. People have to really mean something to you. They do, or it doesn’t mean anything.

I don’t think we’re done volunteering. This situation won’t be done for a long time. I’ve been sick and I was bitten by a brown recluse spider three days ago. But I can’t stay in bed or inside the house. As soon as I’m feeling better and can venture out, I will go over to the Shelter and start helping again. 

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