Understanding the Value of Volunteer Resources

I am honored to have been selected as a member of the White House Champion of Change.

A little about Denton County, located north of the Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex, population 638,000 plus. We have a CERT program that has several hundred active participants. With our training we have been able to perform search and rescue for missing persons, provided rehab to firefighters working fires big and small, run shelters for persons displaced due to hurricanes, and even assisted with assessing damage due to tornadoes and severe storms. 

Often I am asked about why our program is so successful and how we manage to have so many active, involved volunteers. The answer is that we have leadership at the volunteer, local and county levels that truly understands the value of having volunteer resources every day. By having background checked, trained and equipped volunteers we can provide a ready surge of manpower in an emergency, freeing up professional responders or assisting in certain specialties such as logistics or communication. I was able to think outside the box, thinking ahead, establishing a plan and resource to provide a solution. By doing so we have established an Animal in Disaster Response Team, Fire Rehab team that responds 24/7, Shelter Team, Public Education team, Training team and in 2012 we will establish a Board up Team. With so many schedules, we will have 3 meetings a month throughout the county so members will have the opportunity to attend meetings and trainings

As a past chair of Citizen Corps Council thru North Central Texas Council of Governments we strived to close the barriers of jurisdictions, enabling teams not only to collaborate on training and drills, but also opening the doors to each others jurisdictions. This enabled members to cross train and participate outside of their jurisdictions, by doing this it saves on cost and enables teams to work together for the good of all citizens.

Our elected officals Judge Mary Horn and Denton County Commissioners, Department of Emergency Services, Chief/EM Joseph Gonzalez, and Asst Chief Roland Asebedo, not only encourage involvement by our citizens, but go out of their way to provide resources and opportunites for training and working with various local public safety agencies. They trust our volunteers to do the right thing before, during and after any disasters. Many agencies are wary of volunteers due to a precieved lack of training, commitment, or professionalism and that can be a significant challenge. This sense of trust by our local officals has helped break through those concerns, allowing us to be seen as a valuable asset willing to help.

In turn, by being allowed to do our part, our volunteers gain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in giving back to the community. At the end of the day, helping our neighbors and strengthening our community thru education is why we do what we do.

I am just a volunteer who has always lived with my granny’s words “if you can’t take care of yourself, how you expect anyone else to take care of you?” CERT has enabled me to take care of myself and my family which includes Denton County.

Brenda Gormley volunteers as the Denton County, Texas, Cert Coordinator and is currently secretary for Denton County VOAD Citizen Corps Council.

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