When Karl Matzke steps off the plane Wednesday afternoon in Oklahoma and heads toward the flooding near Norman, it won’t be his first disaster zone.
He is a long-time volunteer with the Red Cross of Silicon Valley but in his day job, he also deals with disasters.
Matzke works for Stanford Healthcare and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and it is his responsibility to keep business moving when disaster strikes here in the Bay Area.
“It’s like taking a startup to 1,500 employees overnight” Matzke said of the Red Cross deploying to a disaster zone. He added that because the non-profit has been helping people for so long, it is very efficient and has the systems in place to hit the ground running.
Matzke plans to be in Oklahoma for two weeks, where the Red Cross has been operating shelters since tornadoes struck the state in early May. “We thought we would be winding down and now we have a new wave of people coming in needing assistance.”
Matzke departed Mineta San Jose International Airport Wednesday morning to join the volunteers at one of four shelters in operation in Oklahoma. There are eleven shelters in operation in Texas. In all, there are twelve Red Cross volunteers from Northern California who are working alongside 700 volunteers from across the nation in the flood zone in the Southwest.
According to the Red Cross, the non-profit has served more than 23,000 meals and handed out 31,000 relief items and cleaning supplies.
Matzke told NBC Bay Area that he believes those volunteers handing out the food and supplies directly to the people who need help have the most rewarding volunteer experience. But, he won’t likely be doing much of that because, as he said with a smile, “somebody has to do the paperwork.”