Team Rubicon’s response to Hurricane Michael, would not be as effective if it weren’t for our partnerships, such as the one with ToolBank Disaster Services. Julia Grabowski, manager of ToolBank Disaster Services, and Meredith Fletcher, Golden Triangle disaster coordinator, explained how the partnership with Team Rubicon started many years ago and why ToolBank is frequently at Team Rubicon’s forward operating bases (FOBs) with 53-foot trailers, like Mobile Unit 3 that was at Amberjack, ensuring TR’s grey shirt volunteers have every tool they need to be effective disaster responders and help local people.
Grabowski said, “A number of years ago, Matt Walenciak, who started ToolBank’s Disaster Services program was at a NVOAD (National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) meeting where he met TR representatives and they were the first to request disaster deployment of our tools, to a site in Conway, Arkansas. That’s the first time we showed up with a 53-foot trailer to help Team Rubicon.”
Grabowski estimates that they go on more than 50 percent of TR’s deployments at TR’s request. ToolBank’s Disaster Services is part of ToolBank USA, but it has its own small staff and works with many volunteers, and they deploy all over the country, wherever there has been a fire, tornado, hurricane or any other kind of major disaster.
Grabowski said she herself got involved with ToolBank because of Team Rubicon. “I was in New Orleans when a tornado struck in 2017, and I had never heard of TR but I kept running into these bad-asses with chainsaws. I was working on the NOLA Tree Project and ran into a cleanup crew and TR’s Chad Reynolds so we coordinated with TR to do some of the more heavy lifting. When Harvey hit, I was champing at the bit to go to Houston but I wasn’t qualified to do anything. I called Chad and he gave me the e-mail of the Houston ToolBank so I could volunteer with them. And I ended up getting a job with them. So it is because of Team Rubicon that I got this job.”
Grabowski’s striped cat DumpStaph goes on every deployment with her, and she calls DumpStaph a “Greyshirt therapy cat.” And maybe there’s something to this as TR volunteers seek out the cat to pet during each morning’s briefing.
Fletcher said she often provides tech support to ToolBank Disaster Services, and she found herself in Florida at Operation Amberjack because she was in town to attend her grandfather’s funeral. “I stayed to help,” she said. “Our partners are TR and ITDRC (Information Technology Disaster Resource Center); we are all in cahoots.” She laughed.
Fletcher and Grabowski both said they love deploying with TR because “everything we need in terms of resources is here with TR, such as housing, security, and food.” And when you’re responding to a disaster, it is those resources and having the proper tools that often makes the difference. #toolsforchange