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The Volunteer

Published: Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 11:22 a.m. CST

Sal Alaniz Jr.’s phone rings at 2 a.m. He answers on the second ring; he was up anyway, prowling the internet.

It’s the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department. There’s been a rural house fire, and a family with three children is now homeless.

“I’ll be right there,” Sal responds. On his way out, he grabs a sack of Laura’s Grace. 

“Well,” he asks to himself, “what will this day bring?”

Sal is a Red Cross Volunteer. He has served on site after hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the tornado in Moore, Okla. Most recently, he spent three days in Washington, Ill., after the devastating tornado that ripped through the town.

He kept a journal while there, and emailed back entries to friends, acquaintances, and other volunteers. Here are a few excerpts:

“Today was an ebb, tomorrow an expected flow.”

“Flexibility.  A word — a mantra — with Red Cross.”

“Service is never idle. Seek and ye shall find.”

“Say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ to someone, and mean it. And Listen. And listen.”

“Each person begins the process of recovery. The recovery which comes from within is greater than ourselves.”

“We can’t control Mother Nature. We can control our response.”

Sal will soon be making a second trip to Washington. Through Red Cross training, he knows the average time spent with each disaster victim is eight minutes. In that time, he must assess, respond, and provide what is needed in the way of food, clothing, shelter, and financial assistance.

In addition to Red Cross procedure, Sal adds his personal touch — Laura’s Grace — bags of stuffed animals, toys, crayons, coloring books, blankets, etc. for kids (and adults). These bags have been prepared by Laura McPheil of Winfield, and can be so impactful to those in need. 

Between Sal and Laura, more than 1,500 bags of Laura’s Grace have been distributed. Walk into Sal’s business on Main Street in Mt. Pleasant, and the first thing you see are bag upon bag of Laura’s Grace, each with the head of a stuffed animal or doll poking out.

He calls them his “greeters.”

Anyone who knows Sal, knows he is here to serve. Enter his printing business to have your resume printed, and you’ll probably walk out with a plethora of ideas of how to improve your resume, market yourself, and tips on where to find employment.

A high school student once walked into his office looking for used computer parts to build his own computer. Sals makes a deal with the high school student: he will provide all the parts the boy needs, if the boy will agree to donate a computer to someone in need.

Deal struck. What starts with an inquiry, ends with a greater good.

Sal believes in the Butterfly Effect. A little motion here, can have wide sweeping effects — effects you may never see. Each one of us has within us, the power to change the world.

Why does he do this?

“It reduces the noise in our lives so we can hear the angels earning their wings. All of us have issues, trials and tribulations, whether it be with relationships, finances, what to do with our lives, whatever. If you can reach out and touch someone, our problems seem trivial, manageable. Everything will work out.”

Sal’s the one that feels blessed to be connected to those in need.

• • •

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.

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