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American Red Cross Calls for Volunteers as Disaster Season Looms and COVID Persists

Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner looks at fire damage
Scott Dalton
American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteer Dave Wagner looks out at damage from the Dixie Fire on the outskirts of Greenville, Calif., a small town that was devastated by the fire Saturday. Many of the evacuated residents found shelter with the Red Cross in nearby Quincy and Susanville, Calif.

Wildfire season is already underway and experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are predicting a busy hurricane season, too. Marita Salkowski, American Red Cross regional and communications directior, says there are two reasons more volunteers are needed at her organization.

"One is the prevalence of a great many disasters. We had more billion-dollar disasters last year than anytime before, and we expect that that trend is going to continue into this year," Salkowski said. "On top of that is COVID-19."

While some new people signed on as volunteers last year, the pandemic meant some previous volunteers weren't comfortable continuing. It also meant more volunteers were needed since, for example, the Red Cross couldn't operate large scale shelters, instead putting people up in individual hotel rooms which requires more volunteer assistance to coordinate.

"We're looking for as many (volunteers) as we can get," Salkowski said. "Last year we had over 200 people locally that responded to national disasters, but they responded to over 455 national disasters. So what that meant was there were people that were going to more than one national disaster response because those numbers were low."

She adds the Central and Southern Ohio region "provided immediate emergency assistance to 2,178 families after 1,398 home fires and other local disasters."

People are needed for everything from responding to local house fire victims, to staffing disaster shelters or distributing food.

"The Red Cross will provide the training that is needed for you to execute your Red Cross job," says Salkowski.

Health professionals such as nurses, doctors, physicians assistants and EMTs are also in demand.

Information on how to become a volunteer can be found on the American Red Cross website.
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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.