The weather over the December holidays was unseasonably mild. 2015 was going out like a lamb…the sun was shining and winter coats remained on hangers in the closet.
Then came January and suddenly it was winter! Winter Storm Jonas was on the way. Fierce and cold and snowy white. Advance weather reports warned people to prepare and stay safe.
Big events—snowstorms, hurricanes, or other disasters– are a time that call for a cohesive community plan to cope and recover. Emergency preparedness, while it may not be widely known, is a year-round concentration for Fairfax County. Keeping citizens safe and community services functioning is a high-priority for our officials. As the area volunteer center, our role during a declared county emergency is to manage volunteers and donations. As Winter Storm Jonas approached, Volunteer Fairfax received word from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that we were being “activated.”
While planning and preparing is part of Volunteer Fairfax’s year-round mission, being activated is not something that happens often in our year. It means that a serious community event is expected and Volunteer Fairfax is needed to staff the EOC to field phone calls from citizens who are requesting help or offering help.
As the storm blanketed our region with a record amount of snow, streets disappeared, cars were buried and phone calls began coming in to the EOC from area citizens in need of assistance.* Many calls came from essential workers (like doctors and nurses) who needed a way to get to work and others with important transportation needs. At these times, Volunteer Fairfax will reach out to our Network and on Social Media for volunteers with 4-wheel drive vehicles to come forward.
One such call came in to the EOC with a very pressing need. A foot- and- a-half of snow had fallen and a woman said her mother was in the hospital. The end was very near and the caller had no way to get to the hospital during the height of the snow storm. VF staff immediately sprang into action and located a volunteer with a 4-wheel drive who was able to get a concerned and worried daughter to her mother’s side for the last hours of her life. It is indeed a gratifying experience for Volunteer Fairfax staff to be able to serve the community in this way, during such a stressful time.
Later, as the storm calmed and the shoveling began, the following message was received by Volunteer Fairfax:
“My Mother passed away last evening. Thanks to the VF Emergency Ride program, Craig and Lona McVeay drove me from my Centreville home to Inova Fairfax Hospital on that very snowy Saturday night. I treasure that precious time with her while she was rather coherent throughout that weekend. Unfortunately, she quickly declined thereafter. This gift of time allowed me to be with and reassure my Mom who had dementia. It also helped me to ensure that her end-of-life directives were followed. For this, I am forever grateful. Thank you for touching our lives! (Kindly share my appreciation for this with Craig and Lona.)”
With this message, came a generous donation from a grateful daughter.
Volunteer Fairfax has been serving the community and impacting people’s lives for the past 40 years. We are a 5013C a private nonprofit dependent upon the generous support of the county and people like you. Won’t you please make a gift to support volunteerism? Thank you! *In the event of immediate danger a life-threatening emergency, people are advised to call 911.