If there’s a disaster in St. Mary’s County, MD, and you need help from the American Red Cross, there’s a pretty good chance that Jerry Guyer, retired Machinists Union member and former William W. Winpisinger Center employee, is the one who will answer the call.
That’s because, in St. Mary’s, he and his wife, Cyndi, are two of the three volunteers who make up the county’s Disaster Action Team (DAT). And for people in trouble making that call, the Guyers become their lifeline.
“People are in a bad way when a house fire happens because they lost everything,” explained Guyer. “They need comfort and an arm around their shoulder because chances are they lost everything.”
What started Guyer on this path of serving the community should be no surprise to anyone who knew him from his years working at the William W. Winpisinger Center as the school’s transportation director. But the disaster relief training he took in 2014, in conjunction with the Red Cross at the time, literally changed the course of his life. After that, he immediately signed up with his local Red Cross chapter, got his wife involved and the rest was history.
“Growing up, a lot of people gave me a helping hand,” said Guyer.
“This is my way of paying them back.”
In St. Mary’s, house fires and flooding or major storm damage are the top calls the Guyers get most often. Their job is to get to the scene as quickly as possible and offer whatever help they can to the people who are most likely experiencing one of the worst days of their lives.
“On scene, we first and foremost offer comfort. Then we assess as to whether their accommodations are livable or not,” explained Guyer. “After that, we are able to give them comfort items like blankets, soap, and the kids get a little stuffed animal to hang onto and hug. Next, we work on some monetary assistance to secure temporary housing or get clothes and food and any medicines they may need. We also can offer spiritual and emotional help to anyone who needs it.”
Guyer says it’s emotional for all, even the responders, but he knows the importance of what he’s doing. They are on call 24/7 as DAT volunteers but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I will do this until I am not around anymore,” said Guyer. “It’s impossible to walk away at his point. It has been life-changing.”
Guyer says he’s lucky to have support from the IAM Winpisinger Center, his former employer because his union family is always ready to help.
“When Jerry came to work at the Winpisinger Center, he didn’t just take a job. He embraced the mission and core values of the Machinists Union. Through training provided by the IAM’s Community Service Department, Jerry and his wife, Cyndi, became active in the local Red Cross chapter and the rest is history,” said Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner. “The IAM is proud to be able to support the work they do by offering meeting facilities and storage space for trailers they use to get the job done because we believe it is incredibly important to be active and engaged in supporting those who serve our community. Jerry and Cyndi put the words of our motto into action.”
Guyer’s advice to his union brothers and sisters who want to help is to join the local Red Cross chapter where you live.
“You get a feeling of self-satisfaction when you help someone. The reward is selfish almost, the work is not,” said Guyer. “You won’t regret making that call.”