By Mimi Teller
A top priority for the American Red Cross is to keep people safe before, during and after an emergency, a mission that includes a secure place to stay. To meet this need, shelter associate volunteers stand at the ready 24 hours a day, 365 days a week to set up temporary shelters for people driven from their homes when disaster strikes.
In the wake of a community crisis, shelter associates support all aspects of providing refuge: They set up and break down the temporary lodgings and help with daily actives which include registering new shelter arrivals, serving three meals a day and providing relevant information to shelter residents. New Red Cross volunteer Luisa Gianuca worked her very first disaster response as a shelter associate, where she helped cover a gymnasium floor with tarps, set up sleeping cots and distributed blankets.
When Luisa moved to the United States from Brazil to study for her PhD, she wanted
to donate blood, but quickly learned she had to wait three years before donating safely. Determined to help, Luisa turned to the Red Cross website and learned about Disaster Cycle Service volunteer opportunities and the many ways she could still give back to her new home and community. She fulfilled the required training and was soon called to help set up a shelter when an apartment complex fire forced 60 people from their homes.
“I was impressed to see how every detail mattered to the team while we were setting up the shelter” Luisa shared, “We had to act fast to prepare for people to arrive, but we still paid attention to the details that would make the shelter comfortable and safe.”
Most of the people affected in this incident were able to stay with family and friends and the shelter was able to close the next day, but the experience provided training for Luisa and a chance for her to experience first-hand what it takes to act fast in the face of a community’s emergency.
As forecasters warn of increased wildfire threats to Los Angeles County and surrounding communities, the Red Cross LA Region is actively seeking new volunteers to respond to the growing number of climate-driven disasters. Over the past two years, the Red Cross has responded to a new, major disaster every 10 days, which has increased the number of individuals and families who depend on volunteers like Luisa to provide emergency shelter and support.
To join our team of shelter associates and other disaster service volunteers by providing relief and hope, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.