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Changing How People See Emergency Preparedness, With Small Steps

Erika Mahoney is being honored as a Individual and Community Preparedness Champion of Change.

Erika Mahoney

Erika Mahoney is being honored as a Individual and Community Preparedness Champion of Change.

It is an honor for me to be chosen as a White House Champion of Change, particularly since I am representing Do 1 Thing, the non-profit program that I spent my life working on. I am so proud of the work we are doing and will continue to do in the future.

I feel very strongly that as a nation we need to build resiliency, one small step at a time. In particular, we must ensure that those who live in high-risk areas, such as flood plains, or those with greater vulnerability, such as people with disabilities, are prepared ahead of time for emergencies and disasters. If we want to see the United States have a strong culture of emergency preparedness, then we need to work one community, one family, one person at a time.

Through AmeriCorps VISTA, I worked at Do 1 Thing right out of college. I was drawn to Do 1 Thing because it is built on the belief that everyone should have access to emergency preparedness information that is clear, concise, and free. People with disabilities and the elderly are among some of the very first groups I started working with, and I quickly realized that there is tremendous work to be done, particularly in those communities. I sought to create reading materials accessible to people with disabilities and the elderly. Large print, visual factsheets, braille, multiple languages, and audio are just some of the ways we have made our program accessible, but I knew that I had to stay longer to accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish. I offered to stay a second year, and during that year I was hired by the Michigan Region 1 Homeland Security Board to continue my work with Do 1 Thing.

Do 1 Thing has been an amazing and rewarding experience, and helping people prepare for emergencies and disasters has become my passion. Even as a child, I helped prepare my own family for emergencies, always asking my parents to make plans in case disaster strikes. We had sheltering plans, fire plans, emergency contacts, and meeting places. I began volunteering outside the home early on, as well. At the age of 12, I won the Youth Assistance Award for my volunteer work in my hometown of Rochester, Michigan. And at Michigan State University, I served in my dorm as the Community Service Director.

As Americans, it is important to remember to give back to the communities in which we work and live. I am proud of Do 1 Thing and of my work with the organization. While my career has been nontraditional, it has been incredibly rewarding. The Do 1 Thing program has grown from a small local organization into a national non-profit with community partners all across the country. I am so proud to be recognized as a Champion of Change, but I am even prouder that it is through the work of this fantastic program, Do 1 Thing.

Erika Mahoney is the Executive Director of Do 1 Thing, a non-profit dedicated to helping individuals, families, businesses, and communities prepare for all hazards and become disaster resilient.