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All–Volunteer Response Team

Randy O’Dell’s first emergency call came on April 17, 2013. He was told to bring his team to West, Texas, where a fertilizer plant had blown up and taken a chunk of the town with it. Though the situation was horrific, Randy says he and his all–volunteer crew felt a deep sense of fulfillment as they provided face–to–face help to the responders.

Although the Georgetown, Texas, Service Center is new, Salvation Army volunteers have been serving in the Austin area since the 1950s. Randy started volunteering with The Salvation Army in 2011, working in the emergency supply warehouse. He enjoyed his work but had a desire to serve first responders and victims directly. So in 2012, he contacted the Austin Area Command and was told that if he could find 50 volunteers, he could start using a mobile canteen for disaster response.

‘I believe I can do that,’ Randy said.

Randy actually lassoed 55 volunteers and shortly after that was provided an old truck in dire need of repair. He got the motor and the other broken parts fixed, and he and his crew received the necessary training from The Salvation Army and FEMA.

Eventually, the crew received a newer, custom–built truck, a 2005 Freightliner, which allows them to provide food service for up to 2,500.

‘We are probably number one or two in the state as far as readiness,’ says Randy, who credits the training he received from The Salvation Army and FEMA with helping him and his crew run an efficient mobile canteen operation. They have also received professional training to handle the emotional upheaval of those affected by disaster.

‘We’ve learned a lot about communicating with people,’ Randy says.

His work with the mobile canteen crew has affected him deeply.

‘That’s the blessing part of it. Everybody needs you when you get down there. We all feel the same. It’s a team effort.’

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