The Heymann family has been involved with the American Red Cross. Their sustained commitment began three years ago upon Stephen’s return from a Red Cross Youth Leader’s Conference in Atlanta. He joined with Bill Sullivan to start a youth program at the Southwest Florida Chapter. Stephen was privileged to become a founding member and officer of the Youth Corps and Chairman of the Youth Council. He recruited his Mom, Diana, who through many hours of volunteer service became Director of the Youth Council and eventually Director of Youth Services. His brother, Andrew, became involved as a Youth Advisor and worked as a Summer Intern for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Department. His Dad, Bill helped in the post hurricane recovery efforts. Andrew and Diana also became certified CPR and First Aid Instructors to teach safety to the youth and to the community.
The Red Cross volunteer activities have been very meaningful to the Heymann family. They have taken classes in Disaster Services, Damage Assessment, Logistics, Shelter Operations, Mass Care, Family Services, First Aid, CPR, and AED Defibrillation. The Heymanns have always expressed gratitude for their training in disaster preparedness and response. They have always demonstrated a profound respect for the workers and volunteers who are on call 24/7 to help with disasters and with other agencies that are first responders.
Their training was utilized during several emergencies. During the summer of 2003, there was severe flooding in eastern Sarasota County. They were involved with loading, serving and transporting meals to residents forced to vacate their flood-ravaged homes. This last summer, after having received additional certifications, they were involved with other areas of emergency response for victims of four hurricanes. They were able to set up and work in shelters, prepare and distribute food, and help with logistics and damage assessment. The magnitude of the disaster affected all of them. They talked about how hard it was to see the mass destruction of homes and businesses and to see the vacant stares of children who had lost everything. They worked hard with the Youth Corps in a very difficult situation. They were humbled by the appreciation of the families that they helped. They were appreciative of the training they received and they realized how much they were needed.
The Heymann family talked about the close connection they felt towards the people in the shelters who had lost everything. They knew that feeling well. Twelve years ago on Miami, they lost their home and Hurricane Andrew destroyed their neighborhood. Stephen and Andrew remember the loss of their favorite climbing tree. Bill and Diana remember the frustration and stress of trying to rebuild and loss of possessions. They also remember how much the Red Cross helped. They have been a great encouragement to those who suffered a similar loss. The Heymann family has expressed a renewed sense of purpose and an appreciation for being able to help as they were once helped. Through the leadership of the Heymann family, the Youth Corps has grown from 5 members to over 100 who are being trained to respond to emergencies.