by Larry Singer, Volunteer Partner to Disaster Program Specialist
The American Red Cross is a wide-ranging human support organization, ranging from Blood Services to Services to the Armed Forces to Disaster Cycle Services, also known as Disaster Services.
After I retired as an Information Technology Project Manager, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that was outside of my comfort zone. I wanted a learning experience as well as community service, and the Red Cross filled both goals.
One of the unique benefits of the Red Cross is that volunteers can gain experience in different areas and change focus as they find specific roles that are a better match to their wishes. I’ve been deployed outside of Ohio twice: once as a Shelter Associate during Hurricane Irma in Albany, Georgia; and again, as an Information and Planning Associate after Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina. On both totally different occasions, I met great people.
The work was not easy but highly rewarding. Taking care of people forced out of their homes due to an approaching hurricane is a unique and responsible experience.
I also have deployed several times locally during floods along the Ohio River doing Information Planning. In any disaster, Red Cross Emergency Services and Logistics volunteers set up and manage shelters, distribute emergency supplies, move materials to points of need, perform damage assessment in flooded areas, and secure facilities and supplies.
Volunteers usually serve in the role they are trained for and volunteered to perform, but true to the nature of disasters, they may be asked to help in other areas. For example, on my last night of my two- week deployment in Hurricane Florence, I was asked to help set up another shelter. Flexibility is the basis for Disaster Services volunteers!
Both out-of-state experiences were totally different. Working in a shelter allowed me to meet clients on a personal level in a challenging, ever-changing situation. Working as an Information Planner allowed me to meet many volunteers and learn how the various units in a Disaster Relief Operation work together. Learning experiences? Absolutely, and the learning never stops. Sheltering in a large 450-person shelter in North Carolina is a different experience than the usual 30-person shelter in Central Ohio.
The Red Cross is not a static organization: As the world changes, so does the Red Cross. Policies, procedures, and practices evolve. Recently the Red Cross has been implementing technology to help both volunteers and staff. This technology shift can be challenging, but it is also a learning opportunity.
Locally, I work as a Volunteer Partner to our Disaster Program Specialist. I also assist in Sound the Alarm campaigns, local Information Planning, Logistics, and Sheltering. I also help clean up garages and organize storage rooms. Disasters never stop, and there are always things that need doing.
If you are looking for an interesting and rewarding volunteer opportunity, contact the Red Cross!