KALISPELL – Volunteers are the faces behind the mission of the Red Cross to provide relief to those affected by disasters big and small.
This week’s Salute to Service features a volunteer who has more than a decade of service to the Montana Red Cross. When disasters strike Red Cross volunteers are deployed from around the country to provide relief to those affected.
"Most people are so appreciative of the Red Cross being there to just give them a little help. Sometimes it’s the first positive thing that’s happened since they’ve had a fire, tornado, flood or hurricane," said Montana Red Cross volunteer Lewis Savik.
Savik, who is also the president of the Northwest Chapter of the Red Cross, had his first deployment in 2008.
"It was Beaumont Texas after Hurricane Ike and I worked in a Southern Baptist kitchen putting out about 20-thousand meals a day and I worked in a portable kitchen," said Savik.
Savik recently returned from a deployment to Indiana where he worked in a shelter and helped families in the aftermath of flooding there.
"At one time I think they had seven shelters open because they had six-to-eight inches of snowfall followed by 60-degree weather and rain. So that caused the rivers to overflow to the low-lying areas," said Savik.
Savik says when he gets the call, there is little time to prepare or say goodbye, "when we get the call we are expected to be on the place the next morning to deployment," Savik.
In his more than a decade of service to the Montana Red Cross, Savik has deployed six other times following disasters, once driving an emergency response vehicle all the way from Montana to New York following Hurricane Sandy.
"You could be going into a dangerous situation and you know you may be sleeping on cots for the two or three week deployment. But the satisfaction you get is the many hugs and thanks and even the tears," Savik.
Savik says the sentiment is universal among all of the Red Cross volunteers he has worked with in service. He was named Montana’s Disaster Volunteer of the Year in 2012