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Sandy - Toms River, NJ

Teen volunteer, Dustin Shafer spent his 17th Birthday working at the Toms River North High School Shelter NJ.


Teen Volunteer Spends Birthday At Red Cross Shelter


By Jane Bowden PA/APAT Ocean NJ


Toms River NJ: November 7, 2012 - When 16 year old high school student, Dustin Shafer from Toms River, New Jersey, walked into a local Red Cross run Shelter in his home town, he was so touched by what he saw, that he stayed.


Hundreds of people from the Jersey shore areas had sought refuge at the shelter, after Hurricane Sandy brought damaging winds; floods and power outages which forced them to leave their homes. Many had been subject to mandatory evacuations, which left them with little time to grab belongings and left some with just the clothes on they stood up in.


After signing up and getting his spontaneous Volunteer badge, Dustin Shafer soon put his IT and Boy Scout skills to work. His first assignment was to sort out the Shelter IT, after he admitted that one of his main interests was computers. He started by putting information into the Red Cross Safe and Well database.


He set up sign-in and sign-out forms and as a result the Shelter Reception workers had records of all the people coming though the shelter on paper and on a spreadsheet. He was instrument helping Verizon to set up a wireless networks, so laptops could be made available to shelter residents to help them sort out problems and contact their families. He connected the computers to the printers and was able to train a number people how to use the equipment.


The most satisfying aspect of his experience has been his role in tracing missing people and reuniting families. “ I won’t forget their reactions when you see them cry with relief, but it’s a happy cry and it’s just that feeling that you know you did something good for someone.”


He and Red Cross shelter worker Kimberly Sivon from Tinton Falls were told about a woman who was desperately trying to trace her missing son from a worker at another shelter in the town. The family and Police were becoming increasingly worried for his safety. The pair compiled a contact list of every shelter and hospital in the area and then spent many hours on the phone trying to find him. Eventually their persistence paid off and the man was traced and reunited with his family.


Dustin said he cried like a baby because it was one of the biggest things he had ever done for someone else. Just seeing them so happy, it made me feel part of the family because we had worked so hard to find him. I was happy he was safe.


He has become so committed to helping out that he spent his 17th Birthday working in the Shelter. He now hopes to join the Red Cross family and become a Volunteer. “ I want to become involved because I like what they do and how they do it. It has inspired me, seeing when people here check out, and being told how happy everyone here has made them feel and seeing how much we’ve been able to help in such a short time. The Red Cross really does leave an impact on people in the Community and everywhere, not just our community but nationally and globally.


He says the biggest lesson he has learnt from the experience is to be grateful for what he has. Seeing some people here that have lost everything, even their pictures, is a sobering experience. I have discovered that I like the field of social work and helping people out, despite the fact that computers are my passion.


He has become an important part of the Shelter team and the Manager, Nancy Barrett says his contribution has been invaluable and despite his tender years he has shown maturity and dedication, beyond his years”


The American Red Cross The Red Cross is always looking for new volunteers. They have opportunities for people to with various backgrounds, talents and skill levels. For more details go to


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Taken on November 5, 2012