Red Cross volunteer outreach set for Tuesday

The Lamar County Chapter of the American Red Cross needs disaster volunteers. For those interested in helping, a Volunteer Outreach Event is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the chapter’s office, 2673 N. Main St. Ste. J.

The outreach comes as the Red Cross faces one of its largest relief efforts in the past five years in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

“This volunteer orientation is an opportunity for Lamar County residents to come and learn how they can plug in to the Red Cross disaster volunteer process,” Executive Director John Davis said. “There have been a number of calls asking how the community can help, so this is an opportunity to answer questions and engage volunteers all at once.”

To sign up for the event, call Volunteer Specialist Linda Edwards at 903-581-7981 or email Linda.edwards@redcross.org; or call Davis at 903-216-6939 or email Johnathan.davis@redcross.org;. You can also stop by the office or call 903-737-4390.

For volunteers who respond to an event such as Sandy, the Red Cross looks first for people with the time and interest to train in Red Cross procedure — anything from managing a shelter or a kitchen to warehouse management and logistics.

“National deployments of this nature require folks with a desire to travel for extended periods of time, and have some background or knowledge or ability to be trained in larger-scale disaster operations,” Davis said. “This will be a long-term relief effort, possible lasting months. Trained volunteers on the ground there now will need to be replaced as the rotate out of the relief effort every 21 days.”

They’re not just looking for people to help out in the Northeast. Local disasters such as house fires continue daily, and the need for local disaster volunteers to fill in the gaps is greater than it’s ever been. As volunteers leave to help with disasters in other places, that can make it difficult to respond locally. Volunteers are needed to help coordinate lodging, food, clothing and sometimes mental health services for our local single family disaster events.

“Red Cross volunteers engage in a broad spectrum of activities,” Davis said. “Our primary local need is for volunteers to help provide relief for single family disasters, most commonly house fires. Additionally, local Red Cross volunteers provide support for first responders, such as firefighters and law enforcement, on prolonged response such as a large fire, traffic incident, missing man search and the like.”

For those who would like to become a volunteer but can’t make the outreach event, the process begins with a call to Edwards to help begin the process of completing a background check and beginning the online application. After that, the Red Cross works with the potential volunteers to learn their interests and backgrounds to see where they’ll provide the best fit.

Then we begin training and equipping that volunteer as a representative of the American Red Cross,” Davis said.

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Jeff Parish Jeff Parish is a high school English teacher and journalist. He has worked for the Greenville Herald-Banner, Dallas Morning News, The Paris News and Galveston County Daily News, among others. For comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email him at jeff@eparistexas.com.