California Emergency Response Corps
Interview with Nadia Rodriguez, CERC Director
What is CERC?
California Emergency Response Corps also known as CERC, is a statewide preparedness and response program. CERC's goal is to help Californians with limited resources become better prepared for disasters. CERC team members deploy across the state to support communities hit by disasters such as wildfires, floods, & earthquakes. With a team of over 50 members, CERC members selflessly respond to support Californians in their utmost times of need. In my interview with CERC Director, Nadia Rodriguez, I learned about her role as well as all the amazing work being done by the CERC Members. Some of the biggest components of Nadia's role is recruiting Americorps members throughout the state, and spends a lot of time managing those relationships. With members so spread out, she works hard to try and get face-time with them to make them really feel like they are a part of the team, even while they are not actively deployed.
"The CERC members really support the mission of the regional partners that they are with, their scope of work is emergency preparedness and education, outreach to communities that don't typically have access to emergency preparedness information" Nadia explains. In the times when not deployed, the team works on addressing food insecurities, COVID related activities like running vaccination clinics & spreading information. The scope of the work is large, where "some of the partners work directly with farm workers, and they're doing community outreach literally in the fields. They're working with underserved communities who are resource short"
Nadia shares about past & current deployments
Over the past years, CERC members have been deployed on numerous trips to support underserved communities. Some examples include over a month long deployment to help out with the big vaccine clinics in LA. Members have also spent weeks in San Diego, assisting and escorting asylum seekers coming through the city. They provided fire mitigation in North Fork, CA this past December where they were working on the burnt land helping clear areas of debris, moving trees and other fire hazards to the areas still under threat. Their work and impact is huge!
Some stories leave a lifelong impact on members and communities both
Nadia was able to share with me some of the most impactful stories she's been a part of & from her team members.
North Fork, CA: "The deployment in North Fork was a good growing experience for several of the members, especially Lisa. Lisa was very nervous about going on deployment, particularly scared of heights." The team was deployed up in North Fork in the mountains, and once on the ground Lisa just dove right in. She couldn’t believe what happened when she pushed herself past her fears. Lisa Torrecillas shares "I'm so glad I overcame my fears and did this. It was such a wonderful experience."
Merced, CA: “It’s hard to mentally prepare to help someone and hear their story first hand when they have lost everything..." Nadia shares. While running shelters in Merced during recent flooding, "There were several members really taken aback by these stories, and seeing it first hand, working in the shelters. They really struggled with that, but developed really impactful relationships with the shelter residents."
One of the team me-
mbers, Alexandria, met a family with several young children in the shelter who had lost everything due to the recent flooding. The little girls gravitated towards Alexandria. The shelter was limited in products, and the little girls did not have the hair products they needed. Alexandria personally went out and got them those supplies, and did their hair herself. "During emergency situations hair can be easily overlooked but it's the most important. Just because you're experiencing a catastrophic emergency doesn't mean you should look like it. Those young girls were in desperate need and I was grateful to be able to do something for them. That is the reason I decided to serve" Alexandria shares. While deployed in Merced CERC members were doing 12 hour shifts at the shelters providing general support. Residents had to sign up for showers, laundry...CERC helped with food distribution, donation distribution, organization, and cleaning up. "Keeping the shelter running, helping residents have what they needed and treated with dignity" Nadia explains.
Santa Cruz, CA: During the recent catastrophic flooding in Santa Cruz,CERC members were going door to door through neighborhoods that had been devastated by floods. "They were canvassing asking folks what they needed". A primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood had requested bilingual volunteers, which they were able to provide. Nadia continues "the neighborhood felt seen, we had folks just asking what they needed in their language and some were so seen and moved they just gave one of the volunteers, Arcadio, a hug...for just being there."
What would you like the broader BACR Community to know about CERC?
When asked this, Nadia shares about the overall selflessness of her team members. "We've had 3 deployments this service year, & have had 3 birthdays celebrated in service while deployed. They have wanted to spend their birthdays in service. The fact that CERC members are so dedicated to service they don’t even hesitate to spend a day that would typically be about them doing good for others". Nadia raves about how they truly have the most wonderful team who dedicate themselves to this hard work.
To me, CERC is a prime example of what BACR represents; dedicated individuals selfless supporting communities in need.
If you would like to learn more about #CERC, visit www.bacr.org