October 30, 2011; Source: Oregonian | The ghostbusters are passé. They can’t do anything about an invasion of the walking dead. If you want to be sure that your family is safe from all manner of disaster, from flood or fire or zombie apocalypse, who you gonna call? Not ghostbusters, but the Zombie Squad, a nonprofit organization with 27 chapters throughout the United States, and one each in Ontario and the U.K. The Zombie Squad is a volunteer network of purposefully apolitical horror movie fans united through a 10,000-person-strong online forum to share their skills and passion for disaster preparedness, while raising money for diverse charities. Founded in St. Louis in 2003, it started as primarily a social club for a group of friends who observed that victims in horror films could have easily escaped their fate by such simple preparations as carrying a flashlight. According to Oregon Zombie Squad president Gabriel Martin, the charitable component was added so that “it wasn’t a bunch of horror movie nerds who like to go camping.”
Zombie Squad members provide interactive disaster preparedness workshops focusing on zombie protection, natural disasters, and epidemics. Not coincidentally, the survival kit for a zombie invasion includes the same items that the Red Cross recommends for inclusion in natural disaster emergency kits. Groups that have hosted the Oregon Squad include a Portland homeowners association, the Pink Pistols (a gay rights gun group), and Western Oregon University. Besides providing education about disaster preparedness to audiences that traditional outreach work may not reach, the chapter raises money for the Oregon Food Bank.
The tongue-in-cheek (we think!) Zombie Squad website notes that “Zombie Squad is the world’s premium non-stationary cadaver suppression task force . . . Our people and our training are the best in the industry. When the zombie removal business is slow, we focus our efforts towards educating ourselves and our community about the importance of disaster preparation. If you are prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything.”
Cumulatively, Zombie Squad chapters have raised tens of thousands of dollars for Japanese earthquake relief, and have held blood drives and food drives along with disaster preparedness workshops. Recipient charities include the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Direct Relief International, and the American Cancer Society, among others.
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This is a great example of creative (dare we say terror-ific) community outreach and fundraising. Do you have others?—Kathi Jaworski