The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois is recruiting volunteers to join its workforce to help families affected by an increase in disasters caused by home fires and severe storms.
In the past few days, the Red Cross responded to more than 23 home fires in a 72-hour stretch, in addition to two roof collapses in apartment complexes after a storm Tuesday in Willowbrook and Forest Park. The Red Cross is training new volunteers to help with this upsurge of disaster relief efforts across the Greater Chicago region.
A recruitment open house for new volunteers is scheduled Tuesday, June 14 at 6:00 p.m. at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Headquarters, located at 2200 W. Harrison Street in Chicago, IL 60612. Those interested in becoming a trained volunteer can sign up to join at redcross.org.
“This year, 30 percent more families in the Greater Chicago region have found themselves standing outside their destroyed home and left wondering what to do next,” said Harley Jones, Regional Disaster Officer, American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. “That’s when the Red Cross steps in. We’re looking for strong volunteers who can make a difference for their neighbors and provide help and comfort on one of the worst days of their life.”
Across the 21-county region the Red Cross serves in Northern Illinois, volunteers respond to 3 to 4 home fires every day, providing food, shelter and comfort to more than 1,400 families affected each year in our communities.
30% INCREASE IN DISASTER RESPONSE The Red Cross has experienced an increase in the number disaster responses, up 30 percent from this time last year in 2015. Since Jan. 1, the Red Cross helped more than 2,600 people and responded to more than 500 disasters from single-family home fires to large-scale responses such as:
• Assisting 130 people after a storm Tuesday that tore the roofs off two apartment complexes in Willowbrook and Forest Park. Red Cross workers opened an overnight shelter at Benedictine University in Lisle and a reception center at the Forest Park Community Center;
• Aiding eight families in Naperville May 23 after 16 units in a townhouse community were destroyed by fire;
• Responding to an explosion at an apartment complex in Des Plaines May 19 that affected 40 people, 13 of them were children; and
• Supporting first responders battling a blaze in the Lakeview neighborhood Chicago’s North Side May 16 that displaced 16 people and some of their pets.
VOLUNTEER ROLES Four-hour shifts for are needed during the day, evening and overnight hours on weekdays and weekends for these volunteer roles:
• Disaster Responders - Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) members are a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon at any time of the day or night. After a disaster, volunteers provide families assistance for food, shelter, clothing, health services and emotional support. DAT teams also respond to large-scale disasters to provide canteen services for first responders.
• Dispatch Team - The Red Cross is also looking for volunteers to join the Disaster Dispatch team, who monitor local disasters and deploy responders and resources to the scene. Volunteer training is free and open to the public. A background check will be performed on every applicant. To sign up and become trained as a volunteer, go to redcross.org.
Mike Roberson was inspired join the Red Cross DAT team after his home in Naperville burned down last year. Roberson was honored as the 2016 Good Samaritan Hero at the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast in April for his quick response to help a family after a car accident, even after tragic events in his own life, including the death of a family member and his own home was destroyed by a fire within the same week. Those two tragedies could have made him ignore the accident happening in front of him, but he put his grief aside and stopped to help.
The Red Cross came to the aid of Roberson’s family and now he’s helping others who experience the same loss. Roberson’s first response as a Red Cross DAT volunteer was last month when he provided comfort and assistance to a family after a home fire near his new hometown of Oswego.
“The Red Cross was there when my family needed help, so now I’m doing what I can to help others get through it,” he said.
About the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois:
The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois serves 9.5 million people in 21 counties in Northern Illinois including Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Putnam, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago. The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit us at redcross.org/il/chicago or visit us on Twitter at @ChicagoRedCross.