CUMBERLAND — Paul Demers, a chaplain with the Western Potomac Chapter of the American Red Cross worked alongside other volunteers to provide hope, help and healing to the families that lost their loved ones in a devastating mudslide that struck Oso, Washington on March 22. He recounts a prayer and a moment of silence he held for the entire team during a Red Cross briefing on April 15th, the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.
“I was thanking Holy One for allowing us to be there (in Washington) to provide hope, help and healing to a very broken, grievous community and I asked Holy One to keep us safe and allow us to work in professional collegiality and in harmony,” said Demers. Several Red Cross disaster workers had indicated that they assisted in Boston, according to Demers. Demers noted that he started his prayer with Holy One because it was a name that people from all walks of faith could respect.
“We do that (pray) in a very proper, politically correct and inclusive way. When you’re a board certified chaplain, you have to learn to respect all faiths,” said Demers.
Demers recalls the biggest lesson he learned while serving as a lead chaplain in Washington for ten days from April 8 through 18.
“People that experience disaster this horrific have a resilience that they usually don’t know that they have. Help often comes from avenues that you never expected it to come from,” said Demers. “As disaster recovery volunteers, we must know that we can only do things in front of us, we can’t do everything.”
One of Demers’ roles was to serve on an Interdisciplinary Care Team as a chaplain.
“His (Demers) main duties were providing spiritual support, working with community churches and synagogues to provide guidance for continuing assistance over the next few months, assisting with funeral arrangements and helping the community on their path to recovery,” said Brittany Fowler, regional communications officer with the American Red Cross.