Julia Ann Easley’s address

Photo: Julia Ann Easley

For the News Services’ Julia Ann Easley, what matters is both giving service during a disaster and the support she receives from many UC Davis administrators and colleagues to be able to volunteer. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)

Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef’s introduction

Next, we’ll hear from Julia Ann Easley. Julia Ann is a senior public information representative in our News Service, a post she’s held for the past decade.

She’s also an American Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer, one of the so-called “Katrina Kids” who joined the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina struck. She helped then by supervising the public affairs team at the largest Red Cross shelter in Louisiana. Since then, she’s assisted the Red Cross at the Tahoe Angora fire last summer and the San Diego wildfires last fall. Julia Ann?

Julia Ann Easley’s address

I’ve treasured a small, crumpled note since I received it three years ago. In a few scribbled words, it says so much about public service and my experience as an American Red Cross volunteer.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross sent me to Baton Rouge, LA, to serve my first assignment as a disaster services volunteer. I was charged with managing public affairs at the largest shelter in the state.

That included overseeing the visits of dignitaries and media from around the world. Long days were spent in hiking boots as I traversed the River Center Convention Center. Nights, I was on a cot in the fellowship hall of a Catholic church and, later, at the shelter itself.

When my hiking socks got too stiff, I surrendered them to an ad hoc laundry service that parish families operated for the volunteers. One evening, the clean socks came back in a plastic bag with a brownie, friendship beads and the note. Here’s what the note said: “I had to get a new bag — smelly. Have a good day. Thanks for your help.”

When even just one steps out to serve, many walk together — some in quiet, often unrecognized ways. The teen who washed my socks and wrote that note went with me every day. Help me show you how UC Davis was there, too.

If you shaped campus policies to encourage employees like me to volunteer for the most devastating natural disaster in our nation’s history …

If, in the busy-ness of September, you freed me from my duties to follow the tug on my heart …

If you shouldered any of my responsibilities or exercised patience waiting for something …

If you slipped something into a care package that was mailed to Baton Rouge …

If you lent me confidence and encouragement …

If you could answer yes to any of these questions … would you please stand now?

Now, let me tell you what else you and I have done — together.

When I volunteered to help people after Hurricane Katrina, and last year during the Tahoe Angora and San Diego wildfires, you were there, too.

You provided vital information so disaster victims found emergency shelter, food and comfort. You helped shelter residents share their stories in news interviews. You helped protect their privacy and dignity. And you helped the Red Cross be accountable to the American people.

As the winds and rains of Hurricane Rita beat down on Baton Rouge, you welcomed a weary woman and her elderly mother to the refuge of the shelter. In South Lake Tahoe, you helped a mother send a message halfway around the world to an anxious son serving in the military — she was OK. And in your arms, you caught the spills of grief and loss and relief and joy from a thousand conversations and even more silences.

In my most challenging assignment in Baton Rouge, I served as point person for the visit of former President Bill Clinton. My team and I needed — and received — help from many fellow volunteers eager to share in the excitement.

After the visit was over, all the shelter volunteers gathered for a staff meeting. I poured out my appreciation to my team, the volunteers we borrowed from other units, and the many others who helped.

I also paid a special thank you to those who remained at their regular stations and kept shelter services going. When I thanked them, I was also thinking of you.

For 10 years, Julia Ann Easley has been a senior public information representative in the UC Davis News Service. She covers graduate studies, student affairs and campus operations for the UC Davis News Service.