.: Kern Valley Search and Rescue volunteer finds happiness in heroic deeds :.
A decade ago, Wendy Bailey, 55, could never have predicted she’d be saving lives as a member of Kern Valley Search and Rescue (KVSAR).
Back then she was living in Valencia, a stay-at-home mom with three kids. Her resume included jobs as a letter carrier and elementary school yard supervisor.
But then in 2007, her husband Robert died of leukemia after a three-year struggle.
The couple had been married 20 years.
Still visibly shaken by the remembrance, Wendy said the family home held painful memories and with her children prepared to leave the nest, she was ready for a change of scenery.
“Rob wouldn’t have wanted me to do this,” she said of her mourning. “I really needed to go, and the kids were old enough.”
With family in Kernville, Wendy headed north. A chance meeting during a Whiskey Flat Days celebration got her attention and altered the course of her life.
“They (KVSAR) had a booth set up,” she said. “That’s exactly what brought me here.”
Wendy moved to Kernville six years ago; she just celebrated her fifth anniversary with the volunteer, community funded organization, which is affiliated with the Kern County Sheriff’s department.
In addition to participating in search and rescue, Wendy serves on the board and manages the equipment.
The manager said she has ongoing intensive rescue and life support training, and the tight-knit group meets a minimum of once a month in addition to training. She said their main focus is water rescue, “but we do a lot more than that.”
“We do mountain and desert rescue when people get lost,” she said. “We’ve had to do fire evacuations and mudslides. We have to be prepared for that.”
According to Brian Baskin, 37, who also serves on the team, Wendy is well prepared physically and emotionally for the demands of the job.
“She’s a capable operator,” he said. “And she sees the good in everything.”
Today, Wendy is a long way from yard duty. She can be found scouring the Kern River in a lifeboat, in a helicopter or hiking down from a high peak with a rope.
Isn’t she afraid of heights?
“I am,” she giggled. “But I still like to do it.”
Wendy views the crew as an extended family and says KVSAR is responsible for the preservation of many lives – including her own.
“It saved me,” she said.
Article courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian: