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Hometown heroes quick to respond

By Staff | Jan 22, 2017

A couple who serves together stays together.”

That is Randy and Pam Anderson’s motto when they are sent out as Red Cross relief personnel across the United States. They just recently returned back to their Bricelyn home after providing some relief to victims of Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina.

The Frost EMT couple, who also work at Seneca in Blue Earth during the summer months, are semi-retired and spend a good chunk of their retired time helping the Red Cross with disaster relief.

“We were in New York when Hurricane Sandy hit; we’ve been to many different areas of the country,” says Randy. They even helped the town of Kiester when the tornado of 2010 hit the small town.

“We went into town and walked up to the fire chief and asked how we could help,” says Pam. “He just gave us the keys to the local church and asked us to set up a shelter station.”

Fortunately, only one family had to use the location for safety during the tornado.

The Andersons set for the south on Nov. 3 and did not return to Faribault County until the 22nd of November. They were called by the Red Cross at 2 p.m. on Nov. 1, and left at 1 p.m. the next day, not returning to the area until three weeks later.

They began their Red Cross relief journey at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where they stayed for a few days to help with a shelter and to be assigned tasks.

The Andersons say being a couple during a relief mission is fairly rare, many other Red Cross volunteers come as singles and sometimes the two get split up as they get assigned to tasks.

“If we are not together, we will be assigned a roommate, or if we’re in a shelter area, we’ll have 135 roommates and sleep on cots,” says Pam. “It’s just nice to sleep next to the roommate you know.”

“The roommate who snores,” adds Randy with a laugh.

After spending five or six days in the Myrtle Beach area, the two were assigned to Charleston to do what is called disaster assessment. The pair drove around all of the Charleston area, through back roads, winding roads, and torn up roads to look at the homes of South Carolina’s citizens affected by the storm.

The Andersons said they put on 2,639 miles in a two week period going from house to house to assess damage.

“We saw many, many tarps over roofs,” says Pam. “And so many trees completely uprooted. These are trees that have been on their property for hundreds of years. I got a photo next to an uprooted tree and it was just gigantic. There were so many properties where if the wind would not have blown the way it did, many homes would have been in much worse conditions. And these people don’t have basements, it’s far too wet of an area. One family was just in the next room when a tree fell into their house.”

The two worked nine-hour days, traveling from one town to another; Pam highlighting their route across the state with a highlighter, which did not include the number of back and country roads that were not even visible on the state map. Three teams were sent out across the area affected by Hurricane Matthew that did disaster assesment like the Andersons.

“Thankfully, we were there a few weeks after Matthew hit, so a lot of the major damage was beginning to be taken care of,” says Randy. “But places like Charleston and Beaufort were completely flooded, they’re not very far above sea level and right on the coast. It was still a lot of work to be done.”

When Pam and Randy are not saving the world, they say they enjoy spending time with their family, which includes seven children between their combined marriage, and nine grandchildren. They also enjoy fishing on their pond, and taking the occasional snooze, which is natural after spending many waking hours assisting people affected by natural disasters. The pair who are always on the move to help others say its in their blood to give as much as they can.

“It’s just a part of our nature,”?says Pam. “We do what we can to help our neighbors, I think that is how we were both raised, and we just practice that whenever we have an opportunity.”

Currently, Faribault County has six trained disaster relief specialists from the Red Cross and two shelters in the Blue Earth area. The Andersons say that becoming a trained Red Cross relief assistant is fairly easy to do. With the region’s main office located in Mankato, those interested in signing up are encouraged to visit the regional office, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS for more information.

“It’s fairly simple training and it’s always good to have extra hands for help,” says Randy. “When Blue Earth faces a disaster, we are trying to take proper measurements now to prepare for the future.”

One of the perks of helping with disaster relief is the sightseeing. During this trip, the Andersons visited Charleston’s historical district where they were able to walk through a historical plantation and walked through historical slave quarters.

The other perk from working so hard during disaster relief projects? Getting a thank you.

“We’ve met so many nice and wonderful people,” says Pam. “And wherever we go, people ask us, ‘You came all the way from Minnesota to help us?’ Yes, yes we did. And we are happy to every time. They also get a kick out of our Minnesota accents.”

So, when asked if they would be returning to the Red Cross and assisting further in other relief projects, their answer is simple:

“Ya, sure, you betcha.”