Personal Loss Leads to Service for Others

“My heart aches to see my community suffering after such a devastating tragedy.”

When the call went out for American Red Cross volunteers to help, Cullen Dorais quickly stepped up, just like he has done in the past 11 years. But this time the call was very different, since the call for help was for his very own community, where he lives and also works in.

Cullen Dorais helps set up cots in the Red Cross shelter at Santa Barbara City College. Photo: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross

Dorais, a warehouse manager, has been unable to report to work due to the inaccessibility of the roads since the mudslides hit his community a little over a week ago.  He has been in touch with is boss but he is not certain if the business survived the horrific landslide.  While waiting to see if he can return to work, Dorais decided he needed to do something.

“I need to help, this is my own community. I can’t just do nothing,” he said. So, Dorais volunteered to help the Red Cross as part of the shelter team: setting up cots, blankets and comfort kits to welcome those who have been displaced by this tragedy.  In doing so, he has been assisting with caring for the dozens of residents who now are calling the Red Cross shelter home.

“It strengthens my resolve to serve my community the best I can and to help those who are going through similar losses,” stated Dorias.

For Dorais, the losses have been very personal. Longtime family friends and neighbors did not survive the mudslide and many others he knows are still missing. Emotionally this has been hard for himself and his family.

Cullen helps move shelter supplies at Santa Barbara City College. Photo: Cindy Huge, American Red Cross

Helping serve warm meals or just sitting quietly next to a shelter resident is where you will likely find Dorais today. He often walks out of the shelter to comfort a resident who is sitting alone and may be in need of a listening, supportive, understanding ear.

Volunteers such as Dorais are essential in helping to care for those who have been affected by a disaster. Red Cross volunteers from across the nations have left family and friends to help provide emotional and spiritual care for this community during this disaster operation.

As the days move on, the support of the Red Cross will be essential in helping the community of Montecito move forward in their recovery and healing. For Dorais, just the act of helping and serving others has put him on his own path of recovery and healing.

Photo: Ryan Cullom, American Red Cross

How You Can Help
The quickest and best way to support Red Cross Disaster Relief is through a financial donation. Thanks to the generosity of donors like Tina and Rick Caruso, the Red Cross is able to provide critical relief services such as sheltering, health services, emotional support, distribution of clean up supplies, and much more during a disaster. The Caruso’s are encouraging the community to support the local Red Cross through a donation online at

Photo and Story by Cindy Huge and Michelle Maki, American Red Cross Volunteers

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