If you want to be part of helping someone during their worst day, volunteer.

That's the advice of Chris Beddoes, a Westerville resident who regularly volunteers for the American Red Cross, which also employs him as a disaster program specialist in Columbus.

Beddoes, a 1987 Westerville South alumnus, recently returned from volunteering for two weeks in Wilmington, North Carolina.

"I went there as a planning lead, to help plan what we would do to take care of clients," he said. "What I did was help organize response in making sure we had contacts at shelters, feeding plans and disaster assessment. I organized teams to do different things."

In his work as a disaster program specialist, the 49-year-old trains and coordinates volunteers for disaster relief locally.

"I try to deploy at least twice a year so I can gain more experience in my role," Beddoes said. "I can bring back best practices. I go for two-week deployments.

"I recruited and trained volunteers and sent volunteers to Texas and Puerto Rico," he said.

He has served as a volunteer since 1991 before working for the Red Cross for four years in Ohio and two years in Florida.

The impetus of his volunteer work came when Beddoes was living in Iowa.

"I was on a mission from my church, and we were cleaning out a basement back in 1989," he said. "Then an emergency response vehicle came by and fed us lunch. I thought that was cool."

He went in the U.S. Air Force, serving from 1989-90, and he learned the Red Cross was looking for volunteers.

"I was working as a firefighter," Beddoes said. "I would take off the firefighter helmet and then put on (a volunteer hat). That ingrained in my heart (the desire) to help people. I've worked as a Red Crosser in Hurricane Katrina and Wilma. I helped out last year with floods in southern Ohio."

He said there is nothing like the feeling of providing a blanket or water to someone in need, whether they've been a victim of a house fire, hurricane or flooding.

"If you have the time and the ability for volunteering and helping people, it gives you the best opportunity to be part of someone's worst day," Beddoes said. "If you want the feeling of being part of someone's worst day, volunteer."

Following Hurricane Florence, Beddoes said there were about 500 volunteers from around the nation where he was volunteering in Wilmington.

"When I first got there, there were a lot of streets closed because of trees down and flooding," he said. "By the time I left, streets were open, but there were piles and piles of debris on each side of the road.

"The roads seemed narrow because of the trees. Every home had trees down. There were tarps on roofs and people displaced," he said.

Beddoes said some people found their homes totally destroyed.

"I had a picture of one house, a two-story home, and if you look at it, it looks perfectly normal," he said. "But the water line had gone over second-story windows. When you show a house on television, it doesn't look like there's anything wrong."

He said there was a lot of damage, but not as much as that left behind from Hurricane Michael, which attained peak winds of 155 mph as it made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct. 10, becoming the first to do so in the region as a Category 4 hurricane, and making landfall as the strongest storm of the season.

Jennifer Bahney, American Red Cross communications director, said volunteers who recently deployed from the Ohio Buckeye Region with the efforts following Hurricane Michael included five Red Cross employees/volunteers from Columbus, and one volunteer each from Dublin, Grove City and New Albany.

She said the Red Cross encourages people to help with relief efforts by donating time through volunteering and donating blood.

Blood-drive locations can be found by contacting the Red Cross at RedCrossBlood.org, 1-800-RED CROSS or using the Red Cross Blood Donor App to search for nearby sites.

Anyone who wants to volunteer can go to RedCross.org and click "Become a Volunteer," then fill out the online application.

Volunteers are needed for disaster services, blood drives, telethons and communications.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla