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News of a Disaster Sends Her Packing, and Help Is on Way

September 29, 1987|Herbert J. Vida

Karen E. Bishop is not your everyday Anaheim Hills homemaker, mother and Girl Scout leader, although she is all of those things. If you don't find her at home, most likely it has nothing to do with those activities. She's probably off helping at some disaster such as the recent forest fires in Northern California and the floods in Louisiana.

And sometimes she's away from the family for weeks.

"What else should I do?" she asks. "I'm not one of those people who locks the front door and watches television all day. I've got to get out and do things."

To her, working a disaster is exciting.

"I don't want to say I'm hoping for a disaster to happen," she says, "but when it does, it's satisfying to help. Actually, I enjoy the work. It's fun to me and you get to see the end product."

But it's not all fun.

"Sometimes you get exhausted helping . . . and there are such great losses, such great tragedies," she says. "But after you see it so often, you become aware of what is valuable to you. It's your own family. That's it. The family is the most important thing you've got."

Her, husband Kenneth F. Bishop Jr., retired from the Coast Guard. Her three college-age children "all give me great support," she says, noting they are accustomed to waiting for days to hear from her.

"During a disaster you get so busy helping unfortunate people you don't get a chance to telephone," says Bishop, noting she sometimes leaves on 15-minute notice after a call from the American Red Cross disaster services. The Red Cross pays for her her plane fare, room and food.

"My husband knows I can take care of myself," she adds. "Besides, for the 25 years he was in the Coast Guard he was always gone, and now it's my turn."

At disasters--such as last year's major apartment fire in Anaheim--she sets up shelters, provides meals, clothes and cots to evacuated residents, oftentimes enlisting their aid to help her.

"We need their help. Sometimes we have to feed and house hundreds of people," she says.

It takes a strong personality to be a Red Cross disaster team worker, she says, a trait she acquired from a strong family background. Her father was a Navy captain who often held family forums.

"We were required to participate and give our thoughts," she says. "That helped make all of us independent thinkers."

Besides her call to natural and man-created disasters, Bishop is also called by the Red Cross to relay disastrous news, such as a death in the family to military personnel in Orange County.

"Despite all my training," she says, "there's only one way to do it. You just have to tell them. Sometimes it's very difficult."

Mitch Cherness, of San Juan Capistrano, a private consultant who has five children of his own and conducts classes called "Turning Out Terrific Children" in San Clemente, Costa Mesa and Laguna Niguel, says he has a simple formula: "Say what you mean and mean what you say."

All the women were having the same painful experience. They were in the process of divorce or contemplating one. "The time went quickly," said Vera Eckles, director of the Cal State Fullerton Women's Center, which sponsored a six-hour workshop on "Divorce: How to Survive financially, Emotionally and Legally."

She said many of the 32 women who attended suggested that six hours was not enough time and the next workshop should be extended to a second day.

"We asked them what they wanted from the program," Eckles said, "and they said the major need was information and guidance. Many of them didn't know which way to go or how to approach a divorce. Now they have some direction."

A female attorney was brought in to address the group, Eckles said, because "not all male attorneys have women's needs and concerns at heart."

You've read newspaper stories of veteran military men who say it is an honor to swear their sons into a branch of the service. In a twist, Anthony Salas, of San Juan Capistrano, a master sergeant in the Army Reserve, was sworn in for a final tour of duty by his son, Army 1st Lt. David Salas.

Acknowledgments--Lynn Lochrie, 20, of Fullerton, an honors student and junior at Cal State Fullerton, was named Miss Deaf California and in April will compete in South Carolina for Miss Deaf America. Profoundly deaf since birth, she will give talks about the deaf in California during her two-year reign.

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