Veteran Volunteer Revels in Giving Red Cross a Hand

Article excerpt

Every morning, Maggie Wheeler of Festus watches the Weather Channel for any severe weather. She can usually tell when the weather will turn disastrous, forcing residents from their homes and into the helping hands of the American Red Cross.

Wheeler, 72, a grandmother and a nine-year veteran of the Red Cross, left last week for a disaster relief operation in South Dakota where melting snow and heavy rain are flooding the region along the Missouri River.

Wheeler has gone on nearly 50 relief efforts, although she's not sure how many because she's lost count. Her call to action Tuesday did not come as a surprise. Wheeler said that when disaster strikes, you can count on her to be there. Since joining the Red Cross in 1988, Wheeler has turned down only one mission - the relief effort in early March for the tornadoes in Arkansas. She was scheduled to have cataract surgery. "It was traumatic," she said, not of the surgery, but of missing the mission. "That was the first time I had to say `no.' " Wheeler is a member of the Red Cross's Disaster Services Human Resource (DSHR) system, a team of volunteers who are trained disaster relief all over the country. Jim Braibish, a spokesman with the Red Cross in St. Louis, said Wheeler was among more than 10,000 DSHR volunteers nationwide. She is the first in the St. Louis region to be summoned for the South Dakota flooding. Locally, there are more than 4,000 Red Cross volunteers in every field including disaster relief. …