The Western and Central New Region of the American Red Cross has adopted a volunteer mentoring program for Disaster Services, supplementing each prospective volunteer’s traditional training process with the comradery of a long-time practitioner.
In the Central New York Chapter, new volunteer Jim Dolliver recently completed his classroom and onsite training under the tutelage of Ken Stapleton, a long-time Disaster Action Team (DAT) member and Large-Scale Responder.
Last year, Stapleton and other DAT members in the Central New York Chapter responded to more than 170 fires in single and multi-family homes, and assisted 283 families. Since joining the ranks, Dolliver has responded to three home fires. In describing his first response to a fire in Brewerton, he was impressed with observing the interaction of the team leader with the team members and the affected residents, and gained tremendous satisfaction in helping to fulfill the Red Cross mission. “Seeing the relief on the clients’ faces. They’d been through a lot,” he recalled. “We are really helping people.”
Dolliver noted that his mentor’s experience had been a valuable resource. “I really appreciate all the help,” he said. “The Mentor Program really helps because there’s a person who’s a DAT member to call on anytime.”
The two men, now both full-fledged DAT volunteers, met at the Central New York Chapter Office for a graduation ceremony of sorts, marking Stapleton’s successful completion of the training and mentoring program.
“The mentor-mentee relationship has turned into a friendship which is part of the reason I joined the Red Cross in the first place, for the social interaction,” Stapleton said. “Jim was highly motivated right from the start, soaking it all in. He shows initiative and a willingness to help with whatever is needed. It has been a pleasure guiding him in the journey. He will be, and already is, an asset to the Red Cross.”
Dolliver has the distinction of being the first to pass through the mentoring system, but he’ll have company. Other new volunteers are currently working under the auspices of mentors throughout the Western and Central New York Region, which also includes chapters in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, Greater Rochester and Western New York in Buffalo.
Proud to be a full-fledged DAT volunteer, Dolliver values that the Red Cross puts such an emphasis on preparation. “I can’t say enough about the training. In my experience with other voluntary organizations, there isn’t anywhere this kind of training.”