Volunteers are the backbone of the American Red Cross and to make sure they are not overburdened, more are needed across the Heart of Missouri Chapter.
“You can’t have too many Red Cross volunteers,” said Phillip Iman, a disaster specialist with the chapter.
Iman and Wil Treftz, another disaster specialist, help manage the volunteer corps throughout the chapter’s 21-county jurisdiction.
No age group is excluded from being a Red Cross volunteer, but recently retired individuals are ideal candidates.
“Those are the people who generally have the most time,” Iman said. “If they are able to retire at a relatively young age, a lot of retirees are willing to volunteer.
“Everyone is encouraged to volunteer no matter how much time they have to provide. Whether they be young, college-age students or young adults, we can put them to work. We can find projects for them. Basically, we can find something for anybody.”
Volunteering for the Red Cross does involve a commitment.
“I want people to know it’s more than just a name on the list,” Iman said. “When you volunteer for the American Red Cross you know there are going to be opportunities for you to help locally, and nationally, if you so desire. We certainly don’t want people to do this for just a resume.”
The time commitment can be as much or as little as a volunteer wants it to be.
Staff members provide volunteers with regular opportunities to learn about the Red Cross and train for a disaster.
Volunteer meetings are held once a month in chapter offices. A training session also is held at least once a month.
The volunteer meetings, held in the evenings, are about two hours long. Training sessions, depending on the subject, last from four to eight hours.
Some training sessions are done during the evening. Others are held on Saturdays.
“A volunteer doesn’t have to do this every month. It can be done as their time permits,” Iman said. “None of this is mandatory. We do want a commitment from prospective volunteers that if they decide they want to become part of the Red Cross they will undergo the training and attend meetings so they’ll be ready to respond when something does happen.”
New volunteers do need to take four courses: Disaster Services: An Overview; Disaster Assessment; Client Casework; and Sheltering.
There are numerous Red Cross trainings available, but completing the four basic courses qualifies a volunteer to be a member of a Disaster Action Team, which responds when a disaster, such as a fire, flood or storm, happens.
Most disaster responses are on the local level.
Volunteers are not required to go out on a national deployment. They have the option of making themselves available to go out nationally.