The Red Cross—On the Job Every Eight Minutes!
I was bringing my stepmother home from the baptism of her great grandson. We rounded the corner to see 12 fire trucks and three ambulances blocking traffic. Her high-rise senior apartment building was billowing smoke from the fourth floor–her floor, her apartment! First responders gently led her to another truckthe Red Cross truck. There wonderful volunteers comforted her in her confusion and provided her aid for her immediate needs from having her life so completely disrupted. As her family member, I too was comforted because I did not have any idea of what to do. The Red Cross was there to help us both get through the disaster and to know how to move forward.
For most people the American Red Cross is associated with presence at the news-making disasters of floods, fires, hurricanes, mass shootings, and such. But every single day—in fact, every eight minutes—crises that never make the breaking-news happen, and Red Cross volunteers are there too. Volunteers step in and step up to handle the wide range of needs such catastrophes precipitate. When a calamity such as a hurricane can be anticipated, volunteers are busy preparing shelters, food, and teams to take action. When tragedy strikes without warning, the volunteers themselves are already prepared and can react immediately.
Some volunteers work on site; others facilitate and support. Some have a regular pattern to their volunteering, perhaps doing recurring work in the office or being on call for a week, a month, or a couple of months at a time. Others commit to going anytime to a site and staying as long as needed. Those volunteer teams can be there for 72 hours without sleep in the same grueling conditions as the victims and first responders. Some volunteers are "just in case," handing out water at major events, such as big Fourth of July celebrations, and being available if any emergency happens. Some retired couples serve as a team, driving a Red Cross truck and giving out food, water, and cleaning supplies to victims. The requirements for these volunteers are to be healthy, strong, willing, flexible, and resilient.
Linda Stalters represents another type of volunteer. As a retired Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Psychotherapist, she and others licensed in the mental health field, focus on the psychological trauma that victims experience. She assesses their emotional needs, gives support, and connects them to resources for long-term healing. Sometimes, that role is to recognize exhaustion in first responders or volunteers and get the ones who are so committed to others some rest and food for their own renewal.
Whatever task Red Cross volunteers choose, they are trained and supported, prepared and ready, and very willing to help!
For more about volunteering, visit the website redcross.org.
Support this series at patreon.com/volunteering.