With Red Cross volunteers responding on average to two house fires a month in Gila County alone, the agency said it is seeking additional volunteers to keep up with demand.
In addition, with the economic depression, more families are spending their savings and after a disaster, find themselves without a safety net to fall back on. Today, more individuals are relying on the Red Cross for assistance, said Communications Manager Tracey Kiest, and the Red Cross needs more volunteers to help.
Volunteers help individuals affected by disasters find shelter, clothing, food and medical supplies.
Local volunteer and nurse Kathleen Kelly has helped dozens of families after destructive house fires. In September, Kelly, with the help of the Red Cross, put a family up in a hotel for a few days and got them a credit card to cover basic living expenses after a fire destroyed their Payson home. Even after the family was safe and had shelter, Kelly collected donations from the community, such as dishes and furniture to give to the couple.
In March, when a woman lost her two cats after a house fire, Kelly searched for the animals, consoled the woman and contacted the media to get the word out on the missing animals. With the help of Kelly and the community, the cats were returned safely to their owner several days later.
Kelly, like all Red Cross volunteers, are everyday heroes to the families they touch.
Last year, 1,200 Grand Canyon chapter volunteers, who cover 10 Arizona counties, worked more than 171,000 hours, which is valued at $3.35 million, Kiest said. Volunteers make up 95 percent of the Red Cross work force.
“Red Crossers come from all walks of life and are able to come together when it matters most,” the Red Cross states. “They make our community a safer place to live and help keep military families connected.”
Kiest said the Red Cross has dozens of volunteer opportunities ranging from disaster response to clerical work. The Red Cross also participates in health fairs and special events that require volunteer assistance.
To learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.arizonaredcross.org and click “volunteer” or call (800) 842-7349.