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Local Rotary members work with ShelterBox to help disaster victims

By: Megan Moore Journal Correspondent
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Gold Country Rotary and some in the Auburn community are large supporters of ShelterBox, an international aid organization. ShelterBox was started in 2000 by an ex-military man; he had an idea, went to a hardware store and bought items he thought his family would need to survive and it took off from there, said Jeanette Bullock, Gold Country Rotary club member and ShelterBox ambassador. The ShelterBox website states, “Our mission is to deliver humanitarian aid in the form of equipment and materials that provide shelter, warmth and dignity to people affected by natural or other disasters worldwide.” Before moving to Auburn, Bullock was the executive director for the Red Cross in Pomona Valley. She has been a ShelterBox Ambassador since 2006. She started working with ShelterBox after someone came to talk to the club in 2006. That’s when the club decided to fund its first box at a cost of $1,000, she said. “The more I researched the project, the more I realized it was a wonderful project,” she said. “We don’t just ship boxes and be done with it,” she said. Bullock said they send a response team, assess the need and stay with the disaster to make sure the boxes are sent to the right people. Bullock said because ShelterBox has a unique partnership with Rotary International, when we first hear about a disaster we send Rotary to the site and if there is a Rotary club in the area, it makes a great network. To raise money they set up display tents at various events, Bullock said. The most successful is the Auburn Fall Home Show. Recently, the Auburn Gold Rotary voted to match donations up to $1,000 made at the Auburn Fall Home show , Bullock said. “The Auburn community has donated over 25 boxes, that’s over $25,000” Bullock said. According to Bullock, ShelterBox sent 28,417 tents to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and 1,440 tents to victims of hurricane Katrina. In Haiti, tents were used for more than just shelter, she said. They were set up for use as medical tents to perform surgeries and to triage victims, she added. In an email Emily Sperling, president of ShelterBoxUSA, wrote, “It has been approximately 18 months since a large-scale, ‘newsworthy’ disaster has captivated American donors. Since then, we have served vulnerable families on 34 deployments!” An all-American, all-Rotarian response team was sent to the Gulf Coast after hurricane Isaac, she added. “The team will be traveling to the impacted areas with some of our kits in case they identify immediate need,” she continued. Alan Young, another member of the Gold Country Rotary Club and ShelterBox Ambassador is working toward becoming a ShelterBox Response team member, Bullock said. He has to go through an extensive interview and training process and is soon traveling to Cornwall, England for training, she added. Included in the boxes is a tent, blankets, insulated ground sheets, water purification kits, a basic tool kit, a stove, kitchen supplies and a children’s pack. The boxes are adapted to the specific disaster, the ShelterBox website states. According to the website, ShelterBox aims to help 50,000 families who lose everything in a disaster every year. They use tracking systems to monitor weather systems around the globe, to anticipate hurricanes and cyclones.