Richard Szymczyk III ’11 just returned from an 11-day stint with the American Red Cross in Joplin, Missouri, where residents are still trying to recover from the devastating tornado that killed 141 people.
Within hours of University of Lynchburg’s graduation on May 14, Richard headed to Louisiana as a Red Cross volunteer to prepare for expected flooding along the Mississippi River. Though the flooding didn’t occur, Richard was soon called to Joplin, just two days after the May 22 tornado that destroyed about 8,000 homes.
Richard was impressed with the spirit of people he helped as he tended to glass and nail injuries among people still digging through the rubble of their homes. “Most people were doing quite well actually,” he said.
The hardest thing was to be on top of a surviving building, Richard said, “and not see a single structure standing.”
Now a resident of Lynchburg, Richard is no stranger to helping others in disasters. A health promotions major with an outdoor recreation minor, Richard worked for the Boonsboro Fire and Rescue Squad, the University of Lynchburg EMS (emergency medical services), and the local chapter of the Red Cross, all while doing his studies.