In January of 2013, Dawnda Jones lost her husband of 25 years to esophageal cancer. His death happened quickly and came as a surprise. Jones was reeling, and to add to her loss, Dawnda and her husband had not set up their logging and crane business to surpass his lifespan. She could not run the business herself after he died.
In a short span of time, Jones, who lives near Lake Tahoe, Calif., was too near to three tragedies happen. Fires raged through part of Nevada, a shooter opened fire at an IHOP restaurant and planes crashed at an air race while spectators watched from below. These three things, along with the loss of the business, propelled Jones to evaluate her life and to seek purpose. She joined a disaster relief organization and deployed to help after Hurricane Sandy, the earthquake in Nepal, a medical mission to Fiji and in response to Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina.
She first saw Team Rubicon in action in South Carolina, when she was there for week volunteering with an international nonprofit. “The people who volunteered with the organization I was with were taking selfies and photographs of themselves in action,” she said. “I couldn’t relate. The Team Rubicon people were mucking houses and seemed so connected to the work. It wasn’t superficial or a disaster vacation, like some people treated their work.”
After she went online to learn more and found out many veterans serve with Team Rubicon. Even though she’s not a veteran, she has a background in EMS/EMT, and a lot of family members have served. She felt like Team Rubicon was a better fit for her than the organization she was with at the time. Jones signed up and took the initial classes and did her first deployment to Missouri approximately two and a half years ago.
With TR, “you’re working hard and feel like such a part of the community and you connect with people,” she said. “It’s respectful and the polar opposite of the way some organizations and their volunteers operate.”
She credits Team Rubicon with helping her to turn her life around. “This work is so important to me personally,” she said, “and with TR, I have never worked so hard in my life. But I’m working beside those who have the same mission and work ethic as I do. The conditions are often less than perfect, but we work hard, sleep hard and get up and do it again the next day. This is the kind of team that inspires me to deploy.”