Service is a way of life for Nick Christensen.

Nick Christensen
Nick Christensen

Nick Christensen and his Red Cross teammates stopped at Strawns on their last day in Shreveport, Louisiana. They had been regulars there for breakfast during their two weeks volunteering for victims of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. When they were getting ready to pay, their waitress told them it was taken care of. She pointed to a man in a booth in the back. The man said, “Thank you for what you do.”

For Christensen, an OSU senior and natural resource management major, getting that message was important, because he weaves service to others so tightly into his day-to-day life. In this Q&A, Christensen talks about his history of service and his work in Louisiana.

Describe your history of service.

I’ve been a Boy Scout for the last 16 years, and run a summer camp north of Mt. Hood National Forest along with three other people.

I’ve worked for Dixon for four years, which has been great. I’ve done safety programs, Emergency Response and Red Cross classes. Right now I supervise the emergency responders who go to high-impact sporting events around campus. I sit on the board of Rec Sports and am the president of the Student Activities Committee there, and in my spare time I officiate sports for high schools around Oregon

What motivates you to serve?

Serving is fun for me. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t. I want to do positive things. I want to help people and meet new people. Serving just seems like a logical thing to do.

Did working with the Red Cross in Louisiana give you a different appreciation for the work they do?

They teach you in disaster training to be flexible, but I never understood it until I went to Louisiana. I’d come with the understanding I would be doing mass care in Baton Rouge. But when I got there I was assigned to Shreveport, six hours to the north. I was supposed to work in a shelter there, but ended up fixing computers and working in staffing services. You go where they need you.

Who were the people on your Red Cross team in Shreveport?

A lot of the people I worked with were older and had a different appreciation for what disaster did to communities and people. One was a doctor. One worked for Hummer. One was retired military. Everyone there enjoyed helping. They were all very different people, very different backgrounds. I’ve never worked with a group that hated taking days off so much. I never heard anyone complain that we were there until 9 at night.

How were you received in the community?

The people in Shreveport were absolutely hospitable. This community had been bombarded with people from all over the state, but they were happy to have us there. I love the people there. They’re amazing.

What’s it like working for people who are experiencing a disaster like Gustav or Ike?

It’s by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. By the time people got to me, it was because they couldn’t find a shelter. They were frantic and upset. So for me it was, ‘how can we get these people what they need as quickly and correctly as possible?’ It was a sensitive time — Gustav and Ike hit so close to the anniversary of Katrina, and lots of these people had been through that. You have to remember that you’re not there for yourself. You’re down there to help people.