By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross volunteer
July 20, 2020- It has been a tumultuous 2020 so far. A global pandemic, waves of protests for social justice, a massive economic downturn and a volatile political environment in an election year. And it’s only July. But amidst the chaos, there is hope. We see it shine in stories of everyday heroes— first responders, medical workers and essential employees. While most of America is trying to cope with the stress of the pandemic, we can find comfort knowing there is an organization full of heroes working quietly behind the scenes, whose sole mission is to plan for the worst, so that we don’t have to. The volunteer heroes of the American Red Cross.
The Red Cross provides support to victims of disasters, and supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood. They depend on volunteers to perform their mission. Right now they are short-handed, especially in the area of blood services and disaster volunteers. Planning for a natural disaster, like a hurricane or wildfire, is a challenge any time, but especially during this pandemic. Emily Probst is the regional disaster workforce engagement manager for the Red Cross Northern Ohio Region. She coordinates the deployment of local volunteers when natural disasters occur.
“Currently our biggest challenge is finding volunteers who are willing to deploy in the COVID environment.” said Emily.
Melanie Collins, regional volunteer recruitment specialist for the Red Cross of Northern Ohio agrees that recruiting new volunteers and keeping current ones at this time has presented some challenges.
“A lot of our current volunteers who are ages 60+ have decided to not volunteer at this time– which is completely understandable as the health and safety of our workforce comes first and foremost,” said Melanie. “At the same time, we saw a huge increase in volunteer applications over the last few months. Those who are healthy and willing to volunteer have stepped up to give their time.”
People have been hesitant to donate blood, so there is a blood shortage. But when donors do give, the Red Cross needs volunteer blood donor ambassadors to check the temperatures of potential donors and staff so a phlebotomist does not have to be pulled away. Melanie said donors and volunteers can feel safe going to a blood donation center because several enhanced blood donation protocols have been put into place.
In the event of a natural disaster requiring the opening of shelters, there will be a need for volunteers in those shelters. Additional safety measures have been implemented for disasters. “Our disaster response has gone almost completely virtual,” said Melanie. “If a home fire or other disaster can’t be responded to virtually, social distancing measures are put in place.”
Volunteers give their time and talents. In return, they get a sense of purpose and pride in helping others. The need is great for volunteers in the areas of local engagement, blood services, deployment opportunities, sheltering and disaster health. A complete list of volunteer needs is available here. If you are interested in a rewarding volunteer opportunity, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday. You can also reach out to the volunteer services department at NOHvolunteer@redcross.org or contact Melanie Collins via email or call 330-204-6615.
Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer