Alwena Cooper is one of a dozen or so employees of Exxon Mobile being trained as a Red Cross shelter volunteer. That means the next time a big storm or hurricane causes an evacuation, Cooper and the others could be called on to spend their time helping people who have no place to go.
"I think I'm just a born volunteer. I enjoy what I'm doing and I feel as the volunteer coordinator, I could do so much if I understand what it's all about."
The training is hands on.
"We're already meeting the emergency needs. We're giving them a place to stay and we're providing food. Now, the next step is to find them a more temporary or permanent place for them to go."
Even the simple things have to be taught...like how to set up a cot. Bev Lowry is the course instructor. She says her students learn everything they need to know about shelters:
"How to set up the shelter. How's the best way to set up the shelter, thinking about the safety of the clients. How do we set the shelter up to make sure the clients are safe?"
Exxon Mobile employee Rachell Cobb-Valion is another person going through the course. She got her first taste of disaster assistance in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
"I saw people who had a need and I was there to address or answer any need they had."
These volunteers are called Ready When the Time Comes workers. They are the first wave of volunteers to work the shelters. But Lowery hesitates to call them back up either.
"We can go through a cadre of volunteers in one operation. So it's very important for the ready when the time comes volunteers, [be]cause they allow us to fill those gaps. They allow us to give the volunteers that are working right now a day off. Give them some rest. It's a good feeling for me to know that I have a lot of volunteers trained out there that I can call upon."
They're called Ready When The Time Comes workers, but just about everyone in Houston hopes that time never comes.
For more information, visit the Houston Area Red Cross webpage.