NEWPORT, VT - Thinking about donating some of your time to help others, but not sure where? Why not consider the American Red Cross?
The Red Cross needs volunteers to be part of the disaster response team in the Northeast Kingdom. The response team typically responds to fires and floods, bringing food and drinks to the firefighters and helping the victims with shelter, clothes and food.
The Red Cross loses 30 to 35 percent of volunteers annually due to personal, conflicting commitments.
“When you’re looking at a disaster action team, the less people you have, the less they are able to do,” said Brent Garrow, deputy chief response officer for disaster services for the northern six counties of Vermont. “One of the things we want to be doing in this area is we want to build that core of volunteers so we have a greater number of people.”
The optimal number of disaster response volunteers in the Orleans County is 12. The Red Cross would like to have volunteers from throughout the area so the response time is minimal depending on the location of the need - From Canaan to Island Pond, to Newport to Lyndonville, etc.
The Red Cross does have a disaster response van, but it is not always practical to use it when the volunteers are not close. In those cases, volunteers might already have Red Cross supplies on hand, such as food or blankets, or the ability to pick them up. The Red Cross also has a disaster trailer that contains cots, crank radios and other supplies.
Volunteers don’t need knowledge or experience to sign up.
“We do free training,” said Garrow. “The first class we offer is disaster services overview, just to give them a little idea of what we’re about and what happens at disasters.” Other classes follow.
The Red Cross wants to offer a class possibly in the Hardwick area sometime next month. The disaster services class lasts three hours on a Friday evening. Saturday classes deal with such things as client services' paperwork.
Volunteers are not necessarily required to respond to disasters. Individuals could attend special events like safety shows or fundraisers, work at blood drives, or man fair booths.
“All ages can participate,” said Angela Russell, regional administrative and volunteer resource manager. “We’re looking for teenagers to help with our Bears and Friends Campaign. The elderly might be able to do something at craft shows.”
The Bears and Friends campaign sells bears to raise money for the disaster relief fund.
Those so inclined might have the opportunity to respond to large scale disasters anywhere in the country. The Red Cross covers the volunteers' living expenses, but that may entail staying in a hotel or a shelter with the victims of the disaster.
Volunteers do not need to be physically fit. A person in a wheelchair could act as a dispatcher or operate an amateur radio.
Those wishing to volunteer can contact the Red Cross at 802-660-9130 or www.redcrossvtnhuv.org .