Havre Daily News
A Hi-Line clinical psychotherapist is heading to Alabama on Sunday to help counsel disaster workers and hurricane victims. Ellen Savage Cole does not know where she will be stationed or what exactly she'll be doing.
"It's like a spy movie," Savage Cole, of Chinook, said this week.
She will arrive in Montgomery, Ala., and call a toll-free number to find out her destination. After typing in her personal number, she will get a recorded message telling her her next step.
Savage Cole is going as part of Partners for Effective Emergency Response. PEER is an offshoot of the Red Cross formed during the 2004 hurricane season that includes mental health professionals, health care professionals and spiritual care professionals, as well as people who focus on logistics and casework. So far, 1,200 people have been deployed by PEER, and that number will grow over the next few weeks, a Red Cross representative said.
Savage Cole signed on to volunteer after receiving an e-mail from the American Red Cross headquarters asking for her help. She had given her e-mail address to the Red Cross at a introduction to disaster services class in April.
She has been calling a nationwide conference call every couple days to receive new information. Savage Cole said she isamused by some of the questions she hears on the conference call, such as one woman asking if they will get to shower every day.
"They need more Montanans," she said with a laugh.
Savage Cole said she's not sure what to take with her. She said she's not taking a suit, instead chosing jeans, to dress "like I was going to go help with the cows."
The latest message she received from PEER informed her to be ready for everything and anything.
"I'd like to see what their suitcase would look like," Savage Cole said in response to the message.
Savage Cole will be packing enough supplies for two weeks. She was told by PEER that she will not likely stay in one place. She said the Red Cross told her to take a cell phone, but can't promise that she'll have electricity to charge her phone or have service where she is placed.
"I may be one of the lucky ones who gets to spend the majority of time in a motel with water and electricity," Savage Cole said. "Then again, I may be one of the lucky ones who gets to spend the majority of time in a Wal-Mart or church makeshift shelter."
The counselor has been in private practice for 23 years and in Havre for seven years.
She said she has never volunteered for anything this catastrophic before because she has never gotten an urgent message before. She said that after receiving the message she felt patriotism.
"I felt a call for my country," Savage Cole said.