American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio disaster volunteer Dean Sparks is traveling to Shawnee, Oklahoma on Saturday, May 25, 2013, to help assist people affected by the recent tornado disaster. Sparks will join other Red Cross mental health professionals from around the country who are licensed and trained in specialized disaster counseling skills to help victims and relief workers deal with the trauma and stresses of disaster.
“Any of us who have the skills and abilities to help in times of disaster have a responsibility to go,” says Sparks, Executive Director at Lucas County Children Services, “As a social worker, I have a moral, professional, and ethical obligation to provide services and assistance.”
Sparks has been involved with the Red Cross since assisting with the 1993 Northridge, California earthquakes. He has been a volunteer with American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio since assisting with families and first responders since the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. He has responded to Louisiana after Katrina hit and provided mental help support for families and individuals affected by the storm. He is also a lead disaster mental health volunteer for the local chapter and assists during fires, specializing in counseling and supporting families and children when fatalities occur.
More than 300 Red Cross disaster workers in Oklahoma have shelters, kitchens and emergency aid stations open where people can find a safe refuge, food and snacks, emotional support, relief supplies, health care services and information about what other help is available. More than 2,800 relief items have already been distributed including comfort kits containing personal toiletries and recovery supplies including coolers, buckets, gloves, dust masks, trash bags, flashlights, tarps, shovels, rakes and blankets.
The Red Cross will be there in these affected areas to help people get back on their feet, and is working with other groups to give additional attention to children. The Red Cross is working with Save the Children and Children’s Disaster Services, visiting shelters, community centers, churches and after-school programs to assist with the needs of children in the community. In the coming days, Red Cross workers will meet with many affected families to help with emergency needs and connect people with other resources and tools to support their recovery.
Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations help provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters.