Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Southeast Tennessee Volunteer Spotlight, Dean Sparks - June 2017

Congratulations to Dean Sparks, this month's volunteer spotlight! “Dean has really stepped up over the past few months as the Mental Health lead. He shows great passion for helping others and great leadership in engaging our Red Cross chapter in the community around disaster mental health needs.”

Dean has worked as a disaster mental health volunteer with the Red Cross since 1993. He is a social worker by training; he retired about 2 years ago, and moved to Tennessee from Ohio. His role has evolved over time from a support for the volunteer teams and staff, to now also responding to the local victims. Dean provides support, does assessments, and connects those in need of further services to local help. He believes that volunteers and victims must take care of themselves before, during, after trauma, and his contribution to the Red Cross stems from his values that if one has skills, knowledge and ability, they are obligated to help. He feels he has professional, religious and moral commitments to respond.  As the team lead, he is now trying to build a team of other qualified volunteers.

In the first several years of his volunteer work, he mainly participated in deployments. His first deployment was to the Northridge earthquake in 1993. Throughout his 24 years, he has assisted in many major events nationally such as 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Katrina. Dean now also participates locally and is called whenever there are fatalities like in fires, local plane crashes, accidents, etc. Here in Chattanooga, he was essential in dealing with the tornadoes and bus crash.

His most memorable experience was responding to Hurricane Katrina. For two weeks, he worked 20 hours a day in charge of the spiritual needs, mental health, recreation, and assisting of other volunteers. He slept on a concrete floor with thousands of other people and said of the experience, “It was hard work, but best work I’ve ever done.”

Thank you, Dean, for your valuable contribution over the many years, and your time in the Chattanooga area!

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