Red Cross seeks new volunteers as numbers dwindle during pandemic

Local American Red Cross volunteers are looking for reinforcements.

Fires, floods and car accidents have not paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, although it has put plans for local Red Cross volunteer recruitment events on hold.

Now, a handful of volunteers are responding to emergencies in several counties, including Clallam and Jefferson counties, to provide temporary shelter, clothing and more to people facing disasters and tragedies.

“We lost about two-thirds of our crew during the pandemic (for various reasons),” said Jean Pratschner, a Sequim volunteer and disaster action team supervisor.

She, Mary Ann Dangman, another team supervisor, and Clallam office manager Don Zanon said their remaining volunteers didn’t meet in person until recently and provided most of their help. virtually.

Pratschner said he has responded to three calls so far in March and is slowly resuming in-person support as needed.

Zanon said there was a need for assistance during large and small disasters.

“We also need people to respond to it,” he said.

Pratschner said fire district officials contact them often and provide information to people in need, and will assess how the Red Cross can help.

“It’s on a case-by-case basis; for example, if it is a homeless family, we will try to be there as soon as possible,” she said.

Dangman said they will also assess the safety of their volunteers based on the situation and time of night.

Red Cross volunteers were there for flooding in the West End last November to help provide temporary shelter for four households, Zanon said.

“When the roads were opened, we sent a team to assess the damage and distribute emergency supplies,” he said.

Between Clallam Bay and Forks, they provided 18 sets of buckets, shovels, rakes, gloves, mops and more to households that needed to clean homes. They also helped connect them with local supplies and clothing with other agencies as needed, Zanon said, before FEMA arrived to provide longer-term assistance.

Residents have also deployed virtually to other areas to help track other disasters, such as Dangman helping victims of the western Kentucky tornado from Dec. 10 connect with rent, food, prescriptions and other needs.

Areas to help

Along with disaster response, volunteers can work in fire prevention, military support, coordinating office and equipment logistics, and more.

When disaster strikes, “all help starts locally,” Zanon said.

“There is an increase in the number of people to help in an emergency,” he said. “A key thing (for volunteers) is knowing how to help with mass care, safety protocols and how to work with trained professional staff.”

In the years leading up to the pandemic, the Red Cross helped install hundreds of smoke alarms in Clallam County while providing basic home fire safety with local fire districts.

They’re looking to kick-start those efforts in May in the Sequim/Port Angeles areas with only an hour-long training required to help, Dangman said.

Bill Wheeler of Sequim is an Armed Forces Service Effort volunteer who works as an intermediary between service members and their families. They can alert family members to situations at home, such as a sick family member or the impending birth of a baby.

Wheeler said he was able to help connect a serviceman a few years ago to witness the birth of his child via Skype. For families to connect to this service, they can go to redcross.org.

They also help represent the Red Cross at protests in Clallam and Jefferson counties, connecting with veterans and service members with needed resources.

To volunteer

To become a Red Cross volunteer, you must first go online to redcross.org/volunteer.

“From there, we can direct people to where they want to go,” Dangman said.

Most training begins virtually with on-the-job experience to follow, local volunteers said.

A background check is required as well as basic computer skills, Pratschner said, but some admissions information can be obtained from the Carlsborg Head Office at 151 Ruth’s Place, Suite 1D.

The Olympic Peninsula Red Cross Chapter is part of the South Puget Sound Red Cross, which includes Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pierce and Thurston counties. The Clallam County Chapter formed in 1917.

Clallam County Commissioners signed a proclamation on March 1 recognizing local volunteers and declaring March as American Red Cross Month.

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