From fires to tornadoes

Alexis Barker, News Edtior

Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ

Weston County Emergency Management coordinator Gilbert Nelson was recently named Wyoming’s Red Cross Volunteer of the Year. Nelson is the only official Red Cross volunteer in Weston County. 


WY Red Cross names Nelson its Volunteer of the Year


Weston County is home to this year’s Wyoming’s American Red Cross Volunteer of the Year after Gilbert Nelson, county emergency management coordinator and Red Cross volunteer, was recognized by the organization on June 5.


Nelson is Weston County’s only official Red Cross volunteer, and he has served in this capacity since 2018.


His work with the Red Cross has taken him to two areas to provide aid after a natural disaster. In 2020, Nelson spent time helping out in Colorado when that state was being ravaged by wildfires. Two years ago, he went to help with government operations after Hurricane Ida, and this year he was in the Silver City, Mississippi, area after an EF4 tornado tore through a portion of that state.


In addition to serving outside of the community, Nelson has helped with countless local fires as a Red Cross volunteer. 


“He is, in my opinion, the most involved Red Cross asset in eastern Wyoming,” an anonymous  nomination for Nelson said. 


Through the Red Cross, Nelson serves as a disaster action team member, government operations service associate and as a disaster logistics team member, according to Catie Ballenger, regional communications director for the American Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming. 


“Working as government ops, you are doing damage assessment. I just finished training for spiritual care. God has definitely blessed me by putting me in a position where I can help people. It is what I like to do,” Nelson said. “With my job here (Weston County Emergency Management) and the Red Cross, God has put me in a position that, even if it is something small, I am doing something where I am helping someone.” 


While serving in Mississippi, Nelson said, he was able to experience the tragedy at ground zero, listening to people tell their stories. One lady he talked to knew 11 of the 55 people who died during the storm. 


“I talked to a police officer who was one of two on duty that night. They knew the storms were coming, the tornado was chasing him down the street. He kicked in the door at an apartment complex and got in the bathtub. Two minutes later, he was pulling people out of the rubble,” Nelson said. 


Nelson said that he and his partner tried to focus on talking to kids and the first responders. 


“Those are the ones that seem to get forgotten about,” Nelson said. “First responders, we think they are trained to help, so they get forgotten about. We talked to nurses, and they fell apart when they started talking about their story.” 


He noted that working with the Red Cross also benefits his job. 


“I am learning something and doing something that I can bring back here if there is a disaster in Weston County,” Nelson said. 


And the person who nominated him agreed that the connection between his job and volunteer work, combined with Nelson’s willingness to help people, is part of what makes him great at what he does. 


“In his emergency management job, he is always working to help others be better prepared and ready for what may come,” the nomination says. “Gilbert will support anything involving preparedness and resiliency planning. Whether you are in his county or somewhere else, you call him. He’s your man.” 


Nelson said it is an honor to be recognized. 


“I owe it to God for putting me in a position to do what I do,” Nelson said. 


He added that he couldn’t do his job in emergency management or with the Red Cross without the help of dispatchers, law enforcement and first responders. 


“As well as the grace of God to be by my side,’ Nelson said.


Joining the ranks of the red cross


Anyone interested in volunteering with the Red Cross is encouraged to reach out to Gilbert Nelson with Weston County Emergency Management. He can be reached in person in his office in the basement of the Weston County Courthouse or by calling 746-4491. 


According to Nelson, people can volunteer in several ways, including aiding with house fires, helping to provide service information and in other capacities.


“I do a lot of different things. I am the government operations lead for the entire state, so I’m in charge of that,” Nelson said.

News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

Email Us