Thursday, August 17, 2017  

American Red Cross
There in Time of Desperate Need

It was a bitter cold winter morning, yet the heat from the blazing fire scorched my face as I wrapped a warm woolen blanket around the shoulders of the resident of the two story frame home, now reduced to ash. She lost all her belongings. Her memories, her pictures of long ago were nothing but rubble. The lost furniture and clothing can be replaced…and we are grateful the families are safe and cared for. This is where I come in. I’m a Red Cross volunteer. I had already made a call to the closest motel where we previously made arrangements to house our clients for a few days.

After I have asked the appropriate questions I will spend a couple of hours in our local office filling out forms and making calculations. With these completed, the Red Cross will provide the family with the means to cope for at least a few days until family or friends can step in and assist. I’ll make calls to other organizations and churches who will also assist. A notation is made in my calendar to check back to assure no further assistance is needed from the Red Cross.

What a nice summer day, with just a slight breeze cooling the air. As a Red Cross volunteer, I sit in the shade of a red canvas top tent with fliers and other information for the public attending the Farmer’s market. We attend many church events and craft festivals, etc. to make our presence known in the community and distribute brochures. I do hope they read the information we placed in their Red Cross tote bags. Information on how to prevent fires, how to prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms, how to help contain the spread of communicable diseases such as the H1N1 influenza are all part of the arsenal of helpful information we share.

While we work at the market, the clouds take on an ominous look and I hope that a storm isn’t brewing. It’s hurricane season and tornadoes pop up often with little warning. Our chapter, as well as others throughout the country is prepared to open shelters and have trained volunteers to man them. It takes dedicated community members to spend many hours of their time attending Red Cross training. Classes in CPR, first aid, childcare, sheltering/shelter management, and disaster relief, to name just a few, are offered to all Red Cross volunteers.

It’s a Sunday in September, the rains have finally stopped, and while attending church, I think about our neighbors in low-lying coastal areas. At least one area in our community will need assistance. I stop by our warehouse and load up with clean up kits, which include a broom, mop, bucket, cleaning supplies, sponges and rubber gloves. I always keep a couple of stuffed animals in my trunk in case a frightened child needs comfort. When I arrive home the phone is ringing….“hello, yes, I’ll be right there.” I’m a Red Cross volunteer. I pull on my Red Cross vest, make sure my nametag for identification is in place and I hurry out the door. As we approach the flooded area I notice the high water in the front yards. Looking closer I see that the water has reached several feet up on some of the structures. As we scan the area, homeowners are working feverishly to remove water from porches, screen rooms, and garages. And this time was not as severe as the last storm when a resident found his boat in his back yard. He laughs now at telling about the boat’s voyage but I remember his anxiety just after that storm. We visit each house distributing clean up kits where needed and talking with residents, helping them deal with their concerns. One lady was so glad to see us she asked to give us a hug, saying, “it’s so nice to see that someone cares.”

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross movement. We provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

Founded by Clara Barton in 1881 to provide neutral humanitarian care to victims of war, the Red Cross still provides communication between those in the armed forces and their families. It is part of a worldwide movement that is our nation’s premier emergency response organization.

Perhaps best known for its operation of blood banks, the Red Cross collects and distributes nearly half of the nation’s blood supply. The simple act of giving blood can touch up to three lives in the time it takes to run an errand. Every two seconds a person in the United States needs a blood transfusion, yet only five per cent of the population donates. Thanks to the generosity of local donors, several thousand pints of blood were collected at 29 blood donation drives in this area.

Education programs approved by the American Red Cross help people lead healthier and safer lives. Every year hundreds of people learn first aid skills and cardiopulmonary resuscitation under the guidance of Red Cross instructors. Training in life guarding, swimming, babysitting is also offered.

The Red Cross responds to a disaster in the United States every eight minutes. Whether an entire region is devastated by floods or one family’s home is destroyed by fire, the Red Cross responds to victim’s needs immediately and is totally dependent on the generosity of the public to pay for the cost of relief. Disaster relief is addressed in many ways. Some 30-house fires occurred in the area last year. The Red Cross is one of the first notified and responds by providing temporary lodging, clothing, blankets, food and empathy for the victims. In this area they often respond to flooding due to weather and tidal events. During a catastrophic event, shelters are provided until homes can be occupied once again. There are at least 6 shelter locations in our area and others are opened as needed. Each shelter needs a staff of 40 to operate efficiently. Every shelter holds emergency rations of food and water as well as bedding, health supplies, and care up kits.

Volunteers are needed in a variety of positions. All abilities and talents can help with our mission. Please see contact information below if you wish to be a part of this premier humanitarian organization.

Local Chapters

  • Northumberland County Chapter 804-580-4933
  • River Counties Chapter 804-435-7669
  • Gloucester Chapter 804-642-9478
  • Other local chapters can be found on www.redcross.org