Volunteer Linda Robins and her family of seven received Red Cross assistance in March 2012 after her home caught fire. “Y’all were there before my family and friends. I’ll never forget y’all,” Robins said Monday morning.
She joined about 70 volunteers uniting for the Red Cross service project on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to distribute vital fire safety information to help residents prevent home fires, protect their loved ones and strengthen their community. The volunteers reached 800 homes.
“This is my way of volunteering and showing my thanks,” Robins said while walking through her north Baton Rouge neighborhood, often calling her neighbors by name.
She would share tips, such as keeping flammable items like towels away from the stove, installing smoke alarms, making a fire escape plan and practicing it. As other volunteers, she would leave a flier with more safety tips.
“We respond to house fires every day that devastate families, especially children,” said Nathan Hammett, resilience manager for the Red Cross in South Louisiana. “We know so many of the fires are preventable, but only if residents have the know-how and equipment for protection.”
The Baton Rouge Fire Department, a Red Cross partner every day as well as with the service day project, helped identify neighborhoods with high incidents of home fires.
“The number of homes lacking working smoke detectors (in these neighborhoods) was staggering,” said Jeremy Gerald, of Baton Rouge Fire’s Fire Prevention Department. Through the Red Cross project, 70 fire alarms have been provided with Baton Rouge firefighters installing half of them.
Among the volunteer groups joining Robins and the Red Cross were the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Star Hill Baptist Church KeenAgers, U.S. Naval Cadets, Young Marines, United Way and the YMCA.
“Our organization is all about teaching responsibility and leadership,” said LTjg. Norman Soren, who had about 10 U.S. Naval Cadets on the project. “It’s important for me to show them by example.”
Soren said the kids loved serving. “They loved being outside and helping people. They’ve already asked when the next project is.”
The volunteers gathered at 8 a.m. Jan. 21 to walk door-to-door near the ExxonMobil YMCA, talking with residents. They returned to a thank you celebration with donated lunch of jambalaya, white beans and salad from Walk-Ons Catering.
Home fires are the most common disaster to which the Red Cross responds. In the 10-parish Capital Area during 2012, the Red Cross responded to nearly 375 fires. Just this Martin Luther King holiday weekend, volunteers assisted families after 12 home fires.
Earlier this holiday weekend, volunteers in New Orleans gathered for the same purpose: providing life-saving fire information to residents. Going door-to-door in neighborhoods Saturday, Jan. 19, were more than 70 volunteers, including those from the Red Cross, New Orleans Fire Department, HOPE worldwide, HandsOn New Orleans, New Orleans Church and the West Bank Seventh Day Adventist Church. The New Orleans-area volunteers reached nearly 4,000 homes and provided 18 smoke detectors.
“The job the Red Cross did today made a difference in someone’s life,” Baton Rouge Fire Department’s Gerald said. “Hopefully, the alarms will never have to be used, but if so, it will save a life.”