Story, photography and multimedia by: Tess Jewell-Larsen
Background on the Oregon Pacific Chapter of the Red Cross
They unload from the cars and walk to Autzen stadium to set up before fans start showing up for the Oregon vs. Arizona football game. Red backpacks and red shirts gave away as to whom these youth and adults are: the Oregon Pacific Red Cross First Aid Service Team. They gather in the east first aid treatment room to receive assignments and then walk to their designated first aid stations around the stadium and set up. When fans are in need of first aid during the football games, the FAST members are the people who help them first.
We’ve all heard about the Red Cross, we all have seen their famous logo perhaps many of us donate blood to them. The American Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton and has been a leading emergency response organization ever since. Over the last 129 years the Red Cross has expanded its horizons, becoming an international organization as well as building its roots in the US.
“The American Red Cross is where people mobilize to help their neighbors—across the street, across the country, and across the world—in emergencies,” according to the Red Cross.
The Oregon Pacific Chapter of the Red Cross has its headquarters in the Trainsong neighborhood of Eugene, Ore. The Oregon Pacific Chapter is responsible for five counties in Oregon: Lane, Linn, Benton, Coos and Douglass. The chapter responds to about four disasters, including house fires, a week, and 70 percent of the families they support make less than $15,000 a year, according to the OPC fact sheet. They train more than 22,000 adults in the community in first aid safety, and also teach safety skills to around 7,000 youth and children. The chapter has around 2,200 local trained volunteers and supports more than 300 military families.
Nathan Keffer, youth services coordinator for the OPC, says that he likes working with people the best. He adds that he likes “going out into the community and networking with other people [who] do what I do but in different venues.”
The organization is funded by community donations, and an average of 91 cents per dollar goes to humanitarian services and programs. One of the benefits of having so many volunteers, about 36 volunteers to one staff member, according to the OPC website, is that more of the donated money goes to providing free services to the community.
The OPC offers many classes, volunteer programs, and community services. Classes include CPR training courses, safety courses for children, babysitter training, standard first aid and many more. If you’re a person with a hankering to volunteer, there are programs that allow you to be on-call 24/7 for local disasters, minor and major. Or you can be a presenter who educates other community members on how to prepare for disasters. The Red Cross doesn’t just work with adult volunteers either; youth volunteers are just as valued. One of the biggest youth volunteer programs in first aid is the First Aid Service Team. Keffer is in charge of FAST; it is one of the bigger programs he works with.
Q&A with FAST member Katelyn Battle
16-year-old Willamette high school student Katelyn Battle, a first aid service team member, talks about her experiences with FAST and why she got involved. The Red Cross youth services program, FAST, is an opportunity for youth 14 through 20 to become professional first aid rescuers. The program provides first aid at community events such as the University of Oregon football games, community gatherings and other similar events.
Q: How long have you been involved with FAST?
A: Oh boy, it’s been over a year. Probably last summer when I first signed up.
Q: Why did you sign up?
A: I really needed some community service hours, and I was panicked because I was coming down to the last straw when deciding what to do.
Q: Community hours for school? How many hours do you need?
A: Yeah. For honors it was originally a 150 hours. But then I realized for regular graduation I didn’t need any, but I still stick around.
Q: Why have you stayed in FAST?
A: I’ve just really enjoyed helping out people; if nothing else, it’s good life experience. If someone were to collapse on the street next to you, you’d know what to do. It’s good to know.
Q: Do you have any stories that you can remember that happened while you all were out providing first aid?
A: Only recently, the only real story I can remember is, I work in the treatment rooms a lot during the Duck games, and there was this one drunk guy that couldn’t even sign his own name on the paper… he was flat out drunk and just got up and left. And we didn’t hear anything else from him.
Q: Do you think you’re going to stay in FAST until you graduate?
A: I hope so. It’s really good volunteer service hours, and it’s fun. I really like it.
Q&A with Derek Pollick FAST Volunteer and Red Cross Employee
Derek Pollick is a First Aid Service Team volunteer. Pollick also works for the Oregon Pacific Chapter of the Red Cross as the lead Health and Safety instructor for the Lane County area. Pollick is in his twenties and is one of 50 volunteers, both youth and adult, of FAST.
Q: How long have you been involved with the FAST group?
A: Oh, about four years now.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: Kind of by accident. I came into the Red Cross one day to take a class, and then the youth services coordinator at the time just started talking to me and I got involved, got on the team, and through that I got a job at the Red Cross and been working here ever since.
Q: Are you from Eugene?
A: Pretty much yeah. All I know is Eugene.
Q: Do you want to stay in Eugene?
A: For a little while longer, probably. Probably go somewhere else for school, something like that.
Q: What do you think you want to go into for school?
A: Oh to be an EMT, yeah. Somewhere in the medical world, at least.
Q: Where do you think you want to go?
A: California, there is a school out in California call the Wilderness Medical Institute, and the teach wilderness EMTs and stuff like that, and that’s what I want to do.
Q: Do you want to be out in California after the program?
A: No, I’ll probably come back to Oregon after that. Just, California is where the school is. No, I hope to live in eastern Oregon doing that at some point.
Q: Do you have any stories about something that has happened in FAST that you thought, ‘wow that was really crazy’ or ‘that was really interesting’?
A: I’ve got a lot of good ones. Um, let’s see. It was probably my third event on the FAST team, I was about 17 and we were doing a concert at the Secret House Vineyards and there was a rap battle thing, and we got a call out in the parking lot for an intoxicated male, and that’s usually no big deal. So, we went out to handle it, and when we got there, the person had ingested a bunch of narcotics. And he was hallucinating, the whole nine yards. That really woke me up to what can happen out here. So you know, we ended up having to have the guy life-flighted, and the whole nine yards, because he was in such bad shape. We tried to get his pulse and he was too freaked out to let that happen, and he was kickin’ at his windshield trying to get rid of the elephants. I kid you not.
Then there was another year, it was probably my second football season, we had a lady come in to the hospital at Autzen stadium and ask us to splint a broken nail. That was pretty funny.
And then that same game, before that happened we had a really critical injury. One of the students during Duck Run was very intoxicated, he made a run down the bleachers and he tripped down the bleachers and he flayed his head open, and that was pretty intense.
Then there was one event where nothing medical happened, so we went around looking for, and trying to reunite, mom and dad and little brother and sister.
A Red Cross Profile: Nathan Keffer
When the video starts, Nathan Keffer is not sure about the reactions that will come from watching the Red Cross and Red Crescent teach hand-washing songs to Haitian children. But when the video ends, a 15-year-old boy who seems indifferent to anything but his own world of athletics speaks up. He wants to be a part of something that changes the quality of people’s lives. He wants to make a difference.
“That was one of the times that I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really glad I’m doing this, that I have the opportunity to share this information that they wouldn’t necessarily find otherwise,’” Keffer, the Youth Services Coordinator of the Oregon Pacific Chapter of the American Red Cross, says. “If [this video] plants the seed where someday he wants to volunteer, whether it is in Haiti or anywhere else in the world… then I’m doing my job, and I’m glad I’m doing it.”
Keffer works in the Oregon Pacific Chapter of the American Red Cross building, stationed in the Trainsong neighborhood of Eugene, Ore. The large building provides lots of open space as you walk in the front door. The secretary and information desk is the first thing you meet, with a large open area filled with tables behind it. There are flyers for Red Cross programs, such as the First Aid Service Team (FAST) course schedule for 2010, sitting in organizers on the right hand corner of the desk.
The Red Cross building is quiet, except for the murmuring of voices of those sitting at tables in the open common room and people chatting within their offices as Keffer walks into his office. Keffer’s office is medium sized with windows as walls facing the entry and the information desk. In the corner of his office is a small, white-framed picture. A smile breaks out onto his face: “My wife,” he says. On the wall is a pencil drawing of a girl and the words, “First Aid Service Team” elegantly written. A poster of Hayward Field also graces the wall next to the drawing.
He is in his twenties with a constant smile on his face and a cheerful tone in his voice. Keffer graduated WITH A B.A. in history, with a focus on Latin American history, from Ohio University in 2008. “Not the Buckeyes,” he says, ”so Ducks fans don’t need to hate me for the Rose Bowl.”
Keffer, originally from the Pittsburgh, Penn., area, enjoys his life here in the northwest. “I love the outdoors, so Oregon is one of the best places to be for that,” he says, especially after Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, he adds, “this grey and drizzly stuff I could do without.”
History may not be the main aspect of Keffer’s job description, but he tries to incorporate into his job by participating in international services programs and teaching the youth about international issues. He does not get to go abroad or always work with international students, but he uses international humanitarian issues and Red Cross’ involvement to educate the youth.
A lingering “yes” embodies Keffer’s desire to see more happening in the Red Cross Youth Services programs. He hopes to establish Red Cross groups in high schools and at the University of Oregon. He wants to set up a program called International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which plays into his strengths as a history major. But in the end the most important thing to Keffer is to introduce and educate the youth about situations that they are not necessarily exposed to in every day life.
The 15-year-old youth who was watching the hand-washing video is now part of FAST and is trained as a professional first-aid rescuer. He helps change and protect people’s lives. Just as Nathan Keffer hopes to inspire in all youth, this young man now has a type of confidence that enables him to make a difference in the world.