By Pauline Jelinek

Photo by John Bass for the American Red Cross

Jacob Kennedy-AmeriCorps California Safe Corps


In just his fourth week of an AmeriCorps disaster preparedness program, Jacob Kennedy landed some serious real-life disaster experience. He ended up working with the American Red Cross in Naples, Florida, helping people devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Jacob was working through California Safe Corps on Red Cross home fire prevention and youth preparedness programs when he was unexpectedly asked to go to Orlando to help in an evacuation shelter. After the storm he went to Naples, Florida, as a supervisor in a Red Cross shelter set up to house people pushed from their homes.

A 30-year-old with a B.A. in social sciences and a master’s in international development, he’d spent a decade traveling the world and studying, with stops in Nepal, Thailand and Sweden. Along the way, he worked on the issue HIV-AIDS issues and drug and alcohol treatment.

He expects his stint with the Red Cross in Florida to make him more knowledgeable about disaster response.

“I guess the big thing for me is that I get to see a side of life that I don’t always get to see. I guess I can say I’m privileged,” Jacob said. “Seeing life through people’s eyes who have lost everything, it puts your life into perspective.  I can take this information and hope I can use it the rest of my life … and be more compassionate toward people.”


In the Photo: Los Angeles AmeriCorps volunteer Jacob Kennedy (l) confers with Red Crosser Jessica Chapman at the shelter in Estero, Florida following Hurricane Irma’s landfall in September.


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