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Eye of the storm uncovers heart of a volunteer

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By Robert Villanueva

Eight years ago, Hurricane Katrina took many things away from former Louisiana resident Doug Frederick: his home, his security and most of his personal belongings.

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But the devastating storm also gave him something: an appreciation for each day and the motivation to volunteer.

“You know where you’ve been, so you know you can give back,” Frederick said.

The Elizabethtown resident has volunteered with the American Red Cross, United Way of Central Kentucky and the Elizabethtown Police Department, among other places. He works as a student specialist and administrative assistant at Panther Academy in Elizabethtown.

Balancing his professional life and his volunteer service isn’t difficult, he said.

“I love what I do in both,” Frederick said.

Though he keeps busy, making time is the result of getting in the right mindset, he said. A lot of people don’t understand what volunteering is about but would do well to try it, Frederick said.

Once they got the rewarding feeling volunteering provides they would know why others volunteer, he said.

Frederick has had many opportunities to get that feeling himself. In most cases, he was joined by his son, Brandon, who was 10 at the time Katrina hit.

When the hurricane was cutting a path to his Louisiana home, Frederick originally sent his son to stay with his ex-wife in Elizabethtown. He stayed in Louisiana to ride out the storm.  He later moved to Elizabethown in August 2006.

The experience of visiting the local Katrina relief center awakened him to the world of volunteering.

“Financially, when I got here I couldn’t give back,” he said. “Of myself, I can.”

Since he first arrived in Elizabethtown, Frederick has volunteered with the Red Cross during the 2009 ice storm, after tornadoes hit Cecilia and Munfordville and as a disaster service worker, among other occasions.

In addition to helping United Way with events, such as Pops in the Park and the Heartland Festival, Frederick has volunteered with the Panther Place afterschool program. With the Elizabethtown Police Department, he has helped with events such as Shred Day and opening day of the Hardin County Veterans Tribute.

The highlight of his volunteer service was early on, when he and Brandon volunteered at a Hurricane Gustav shelter in Louisville.

“We were giving back to the same thing that we went through,” Frederick said.

Frederick said he had his son volunteer with him to instill the spirit of giving back.

Brandon Frederick, 19, said he appreciates the help he and his father received upon arriving in Elizabethtown. His father, he said, also provided importance guidance in being mindful of manners.

“For me, he’s a really nice guy,” Brandon said.

The most admirable quality his father possesses is his desire to help others.

“He can’t get enough of that,” Brandon said.

In Frederick’s office at Panther Academy, he has two squares outlined on the floor, one of which faces an animated lightbulb on the wall near a stop sign. Students who are sent to his office because of problem behavior are asked to stand in the square and face the wall, the idea being they learn to stop and think before acting, something Frederick seems to have done after Katrina.

“You can’t take things for granted,” he said. “Things change, but you have to go with the change.”

He was displaced from his home in Slidell, La., because of the hurricane, but found a place in life to provide volunteer service.

“I can give back to people because they gave to me,” he said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

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