NEIA Red Cross
Gail Miller's 50 Years of Impacting Lives
By George McCrory and Gail Miller
Gail Miller, a Dubuque resident, has seen many changes in over 50 years as a Red Cross volunteer. Miller started her Red Cross career in 1973 after she took a First Aid class and then became an instructor. She joined the Disaster Action Team (DAT) in the late seventies and continues to serve there today. Single family fires, flooding, tornadoes, parades and local disaster preparedness in the form of county-wide disaster drills are all events Miller has participated in and helped to facilitate.
One memorable event was the Clarke College fire. On May 17, 1984, a disastrous fire destroyed four major buildings just two days before commencement. Miller helped set up and operate a two day, through-the-night canteen for the first responders working the event.
“I've really seen how local response has developed over the years especially with the increased use of technology and computers,” Miller said. In the past, disaster assessment was done on paper. Now it's entered on cell phones, as she discovered doing disaster assessment after the 2020 derecho.
At the start of her volunteer time with the Red Cross, Miller largely responded to local disasters because she worked full-time as a medical technician at a local hospital in Dubuque. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, she took time off to help, doing mobile feeding at several locations in Louisiana. She drove an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) from Cedar Rapids, stayed in Houston and then went to Louisiana after the hurricane and was there over Thanksgiving that year.
“As Red Cross volunteers, it was gratifying for us the see the affected areas and see how appreciative people were to have a hot meal,” Miller said. “It warms my heart with each meal that I hand out.”
Now that she is an experienced volunteer, Miller (pictured left) enjoys mentoring new, first-time deployed volunteers through the process. She accompanies them on their first deployment to support them through the process and answer any questions along the way. Recently she mentored Twyla Hein of Tipton (pictured right) on her first deployment to Florida where they fed those affected after Hurricane Ian from an Emergency Response Vehicle. Then they drove an ERV all the way back to its home base in Fort Wayne, Indiana before returning to Iowa.
Miller retired from her job in 2013 to care for her elderly father who wished to stay at home but required help with his medical needs. This allowed her more time to deploy nationally. In 2022, she deployed five times. Miller wears many hats as a Red Cross volunteer: Shelter supervisor, DAT member, damage assessment and logistics-warehousing, forklift driver, transportation and supplies. With the different free Red Cross trainings she’s taken, she can fulfill different roles on deployments. Locally, Miller helps with shipping out disaster supplies, driving volunteers to and from airports for deployments, delivering client assistance cards and whatever else needs to be done as events and situations arise.
“If you enjoy working with people this is for you,” Miller said when asked how she encourages others to volunteers with the Red Cross. “You need to be compassionate, empathetic, sensitive and a good listener. You are helping people on what is probably the worst day of their life. It makes you feel good helping humanity in their time of need.”
Miller values being a member of the Red Cross family and all of the friends she has made in her 50 years of being a Red Cross volunteer. She looks forward to the next 50 years.
To learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities near year, please visit redcross.org/volunteer.