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Bill and Cindy Rainey to the rescue

As Red Cross volunteers, the couple lead emergency preparedness efforts in their Central Oregon community and help raise money for the agency


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CINDY AND BILL RAINEY - Red Cross volunteer Cindy Rainey, shown here at an emergency preparedness fair in Sisters in 2012, works to get her community ready to face any emergency.

When wildfire strikes in Central Oregon, Cindy and Bill Rainey sleep at night wearing their clothes, just in case they get a phone call at 3 in the morning alerting them that smoke and flames are driving residents from their homes. The Raineys make sure they're ready to spring into action should they need to dash over to the local elementary school to set up an emergency shelter for fire evacuees.

Disaster isn't exactly their middle name, but as volunteers with the American Red Cross, the Raineys play a major role in preparing their Deschutes County community of Sisters to face any emergency, natural or manmade, that comes their way.

Cindy, 67, and Bill 66, help organize emergency preparedness fairs in Sisters, teach classes in preparedness and co-lead Sisters' 11-member Disaster Action Team (DAT). “The most disaster responses we do are single-family fires,” Cindy says. “And knock on wood, since we've been leading the team (three years now), we have not had a fire.”

But when Central Oregon temperatures plummeted to 18 below zero one cold November a few years ago, causing power outages, the couple opened and worked at a shelter for people who were freezing at home. And during the Rooster Rock fire in the summer of 2010, Cindy opened another shelter at Sisters Elementary School.

“That shelter was open about five days,” she says. “Sometimes there is nobody who shows up. During the Rooster Rock fire we had a couple of elderly people from a local care center, and a few others dropped in. But you have to be ready. I had heard that if the wind had blown the wrong way, they could have evacuated 10,000 people. If the county tells you to stay open, you stay open.”

Cindy was a Red Cross veteran even before she and her husband, a retired corporate attorney, moved to Sisters in 2009. She worked for the Red Cross for three years after the chapter in Wichita, Kan., hired her as its director of development. She volunteered with the nonprofit agency on the side and continued to volunteer after she quit working there.

Once Bill retired, “we decided we both had time to roll up our sleeves and get dirty,” Cindy says. They helped start Sisters Country: Prepared and Ready, a coalition dedicated to emergency preparedness for all residents of their community. “The coalition's goals are to have everyone make a plan, have a kit and have training,” Cindy says.

She knows what she's talking about: “I always look at where the exits are in the airplane.”

The Raineys also serve on the board of directors for the Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter, which includes the Portland area, and help with the chapter's fundraisers.

“People helping people — I don't think there's a better organization,” Cindy says, noting that all Red Cross disaster training and disaster assistance is free. “We just show up and help everybody who's there. It's neutral; we help everybody.”

Volunteers: the life blood of Red Cross

How valuable are volunteers to the American Red Cross? For every one paid Red Cross staff person in Oregon, there are 30 volunteers carrying out the organization’s mission — this statistic comes from the organization's Oregon Trail chapter, the regional hub for the Red Cross in Oregon.

For more information about the local Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org/or/portland.