Wanted: Red Cross Volunteers, Central NY

volunteers unload supplies

Gary Toth (on truck), Mary Walker and Raymond Wallis distribute cleaning supplies to residents who were affected by this past week's floods.

This is so rewarding, helping the Red Cross help these people.

Mary Walker, of Camden, N.Y., was watching the news Friday night when a story about the Red Cross grabbed her attention. The story described how the Red Cross was helping the flood victims in Oneida County, where Mary lives. And it explained how the Red Cross was going to open a bulk distribution site in Oneida, where residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged could get cleaning supplies and emotional support to start their road to recovery.

“I felt guilty,” Mary said, “sitting in an air-conditioned bedroom.”

So Mary, the principal at Camden Middle School, went to work for the Red Cross the next day. Braving scorching temperatures at the Oneida Castle Fire Department bulk distribution site, Mary handed out rakes, shovels, gloves, bleach, buckets, tarps and other supplies.

“I just wanted to get involved,” said Mary, who grew up in Camden. “I gave supplies to a family of six that lost everything, and they just wanted someone to talk to.

“This is so rewarding, helping the Red Cross help these people,” she added.

Mary is what’s known as a “spontaneous volunteer,” although she said she’d like to do more for the Red Cross in the future. Raymond Wallis, of Pulaski in Oswego County, was also a spontaneous volunteer at the Oneida Castle Fire Department at the request of his friend, Gary Toth, of Mexico in Oswego County.

Just last fall, Gary became a spontaneous Red Cross volunteer after Superstorm Sandy. He attended a class for spontaneous volunteers at the Red Cross Central New York Chapter in Syracuse the day after Thanksgiving, and he went on two deployments for Sandy to Rockaway, Queens, and Staten Island.

Gary and his wife were scheduled to leave this weekend for a vacation to Virginia, but Gary decided to stay after the severe flooding. He asked Raymond, a retired UPS truck driver, to drive a truck to transport the bulk distribution supplies and Raymond stuck around to hand them out.

“When Gary asked me to volunteer for a few days, I said, ‘Why not?’ ’’ Raymond said. “When you hear their stories, you know it’s the right thing to do.”

If you’re interested in helping the Red Cross as a volunteer, visit our online application at Volunteer Connection.