The American Red Cross relies on the support of local volunteers to ensure a fast response in the event of a local disaster. The Red Cross has successfully been increasing its volunteer presence throughout Wyoming – and there are many opportunities for residents to sign up with the Red Cross to lend a hand to their neighbors, and be a part of local and statewide Red Cross efforts.
Since July 1, 2015, the Red Cross has recruited 80 new volunteers representing 17 of Wyoming’s 23 counties. Currently, the Red Cross has a total of 200 volunteers throughout Wyoming. These volunteers come from communities large and small, from every corner of the state: from Cheyenne, Casper and Jackson to Sheridan, Rawlins, Cody and Pinedale.
“These are everyday Wyomingites who are getting trained to respond to common disasters like home fires. They’re getting trained to open and staff emergency shelters in case of evacuations and road closures. And they’re learning to deliver lifesaving preparedness and safety programs in their communities,” said Chris Allen, Volunteer Service Manager for the Red Cross of Wyoming.
In addition to disaster response, some volunteers also support Red Cross services to military families or give their time supporting critical behind-the-scenes functions such as logistics and public information.
Although the Red Cross has been steadily increasing its volunteer presence in Wyoming, volunteers are still needed throughout the state.
“Since its founding in 1881, the American Red Cross has always relied on volunteers to deliver its services to people in need, and we continue to rely on local volunteers to this day,” Allen said.
While the Red Cross is always recruiting volunteers statewide, there is a particular need for local volunteers in the following Wyoming Counties: Bighorn, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Hot Springs, Johnson, Sweetwater, Uinta, and Weston.
Volunteers are needed for disaster response, shelter operations, and day-to-day public affairs, such as media relations, photography, and researching and writing articles.
Most often, volunteers respond to home fires and deliver lifesaving programs in their local community, but trained volunteers also have the opportunity to help out during disasters elsewhere in the state and the region – and, potentially, elsewhere in the United States.
“A great volunteer could deploy to regional or larger national disasters because of their experience, training, and interest,” Allen said.
Local disasters often spur people to want to volunteer; the Red Cross has seen an increase in volunteers in Wyoming communities that experienced disasters last year, including the Niobrara County flood in June and the Natrona County fires in October. However, Allen emphasized that the best time to sign up to volunteer is now, before a large disaster strikes.
“Just as sports teams train before they compete, Red Cross volunteers train ahead of time so that they’re ready to roll when disasters strike,” Allen said. “Additionally, there are many ways to make a difference in your community year-round through the Red Cross.”
Indeed, many volunteers who step up to join Red Cross efforts in the aftermath of a disaster turn their volunteerism into a long-term commitment.
Lusk resident Nancy Kraft and her family volunteered to help with the Red Cross after the Niobrara County flood affected their home last year.
“I got to see firsthand what a difference the Red Cross makes, and I wanted to help make that difference as well,” she said.
Nancy said the fast response to the disaster by the Red Cross - from setting up an emergency shelter to the material and emotional support for victims afterwards - were the reason she and her family now volunteer for the organization.
“They really go out of their way to do anything they can to help people,” she said.
Nancy is currently training through the Red Cross in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, which helps individuals train to be community leaders in the event of local disasters and other life-threatening emergencies.
Nancy’s 15-year old son, Liam, also continues to volunteer for the Red Cross after his initial experience volunteering at distribution centers during the flood response.
Nancy said that it has been a great experience being part of the Red Cross efforts.
“Their response time is amazing, the volunteers are kind and caring, and it is good to be able to get out there and help people.”
For more information about volunteering or to sign up to volunteer, visit http://www.redcross.org/local/wy/cheyenne/volunteer or contact Chris Allen at email@example.com or (307) 757-3421.