Woman Makes Disaster Relief a Career and a Calling
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Serving others is a full-time job for Amber Savage, who is a Red Cross worker, a Church welfare specialist, and a chairman for the VOAD.
- The VOAD is a national movement that strives to share best practices and to communicate and coordinate.
- Disaster relief has taken Sister Savage to places throughout the country and overseas, such as to South Africa and the Philippines.
“Are we our brother’s keeper? The answer is yes, and I think there’s no better way to be able to live that than being able to help people and seeing them pay it forward.” —Amber Savage, American Red Cross worker and Church welfare specialist for Wyoming
Serving others is a full-time job for Amber Savage. As a worker for the American Red Cross and the Church welfare specialist for Wyoming, she also represents both of them in the national group Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOAD.
Her desire to work in disaster relief is a result of her childhood in Wyoming. She always felt the need to serve others and help those who couldn’t help themselves. “I have wanted to work in disaster relief since I was young,” she said. Her parents, Bret and Rhonda Savage, also have been an inspiration to her. “My parents have given selflessly.”
While attending the University of Wyoming, Amber Savage became an EMT and even taught the EMT training course at Laramie County Community College. After about three years, she trained to become a firefighter as well. In 2013, she accepted a full-time position at the American Red Cross as a disaster program chair.
Her responsibilities with VOAD began after joining the Red Cross. She describes VOAD as “a national movement that strives to share best practices and to communicate and coordinate” so when disasters do happen, there is no duplication of services and they can operate in a more efficient way.
“Each organization has their thing that they’re really good at, which is why VOAD is so powerful, because it brings all of these different organizations together,” Sister Savage said. As a multi-state VOAD chair, she represents Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.
A few months into her work with VOAD and the American Red Cross, Sister Savage approached her local priesthood leaders, asking about Wyoming’s Church welfare leadership. “There’s intended to be area specialists in every state in the country, but not all of them do quite yet; it’s a slow process to find people to fill those different spaces,” she said. Wyoming did not have one, and she was soon called to be the area welfare specialist for the state.
With this calling, Sister Savage coordinates with local emergency managers and VOAD members and represents the Church within VOAD. She also meets with the Area Seventies to coordinate Church protocol on disaster. Sister Savage calls Church welfare specialists “another layer of defense” for Church leaders when disaster strikes.
Because the states in her district are not as disaster prone as others, her main focus is disaster preparedness. She enjoys getting preparedness information out to congregations and bringing the Church perspective to disaster education with VOAD.
Sister Savage’s work with disaster relief and her calling relating to it have given her a stronger testimony. “I’ve always said that seeing the Church Welfare Department is like the First Vision for me. I’ve always known the Church is true, but seeing our capacity to help people really shows me that the Church is true.” She also called LDS Charities a “divinely inspired program.”
Disaster relief has taken Sister Savage to places throughout the country and overseas, such as to South Africa and the Philippines. One memory that stood out to her took place in her home state. She was called out by the Red Cross to assist in the cleanup of a serious house fire, the home belonging to newlyweds. “It’s really amazing to see the resilience of people. Here’s this young couple who were so grateful for the assistance but more concerned about how they could help other people,” she said.
Sister Savage credits her co-workers and superiors for being examples to her. The work they do is difficult and sometimes thankless, but they don’t do it for the praise. “We do it because we love it,” she said.
She also enjoys the chain reaction that one good deed can do. “Are we our brother’s keeper? The answer is yes, and I think there’s no better way to be able to live that than being able to help people and seeing them pay it forward,” she said.
Amber Savage has remained a firefighter with the Little Laramie Valley Fire Department in Wyoming. Courtesy of Amber Savage.