Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

January/February 2006                                Volume 45,  Issue 1

Avocations  Ultimate Hobbies
A Community Helper
Company Employee Brings Deeper Meaning to Aiding Others
by Lenora McKinzie

The devastation and heartbreak caused by the recent hurricanes that ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast is almost beyond belief. Many volunteers across the country have donated time and money through the Red Cross, churches and other agencies to provide relief to those who have lost homes, family members and livelihoods. Another group of unpaid volunteers has been active from the very first days after the hurricanes hit: the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) from cities all around the United States.

Memphis, Tenn., is located only a half-day’s drive from the devastated areas in Mississippi and Louisiana, and so the emergency responders from Memphis were among the first on the scene. Marsha Mundinger, who is also the director of quality assurance and software testing at WoodWare Systems in Memphis, is one of the CERT team members from Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., who worked in Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss., while water was still chest-high in the streets. Mundinger’s group worked for several days in southern Mississippi that first week, and some have made return trips.

“You can’t believe how bad it was unless you were there,” she said. “Television didn’t even come close to showing how much destruction there was.”

Mundinger’s group was assigned a number of tasks, with a regular, planned rotation designed to avoid burnout among the team members. 

“We worked on a particular assignment for three hours, and then rotated to another assignment, then another, then another,” she said. 

“One of the top initial priorities for us was to try to find people who were still alive but trapped in their homes. We searched house to house looking for people. On that first trip, we found people alive in their attics, on their roofs or upstairs in their homes and were able to get them safely out,” she said. “Water was still standing in almost every home, and was still chest-high on the streets. I’m the shortest one in our group (5-foot, 2 inches tall), so they let me lead the way. If it wasn’t over my head, we knew it would be okay for everybody else.”

After finding and safely evacuating the living, the unpleasant but necessary task of removing the corpses of the deceased was performed. Other tasks included serving food and water at shelters, and providing counseling services to people in the shelters, especially children. 

Returning back to Memphis, Mundinger and her group were very involved in organizing a warehouse full of clothes, food and other donated items. She worked for several weeks almost every evening after her normal WoodWare workday was done.

Mundinger went through the emergency response certification process in spring 2005, and has also been to Kansas after a tornado hit there this summer. She is certified at the local and state levels, and is currently working towards federal certification with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). y


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