IRON COUNTY— The American Red Cross is seeking local volunteers to provide local disaster relief services.
“Right now, there is no one in Iron County to provide emergency services after a disaster,” according to American Red Cross Emergency Service Program Manager Jeffrey Selesky. “The sole function of the group is to work with victims of disaster.”
The Red Cross will train volunteers beginning with a disaster service overview. “We begin our training right from the ground level,” Selesky said. The organization primarily seeks people over 18 years old as volunteers but has a variety of opportunities to help. “Right now in the Marquette area, we have a group of Girl Scouts who are building comfort kits,” he added.
Vern Jones, Iron County emergency coordinator and sheriff’s department lieutenant, agrees that a local Red Cross disaster team is essential.
“If we had a big event tonight, we would be in trouble,” Jones said. The county currently lacks a program for sheltering and feeding disaster victims.
Local volunteers provide immediate assistance to members of their community after disasters ranging from house fires and emergency evacuations to more far-ranging incidents.
For example, during the Duck Lake wildfire near Newberry in May, American Red Cross volunteers remained on the scene for 16 days. “We had 25 volunteers assist at the Duck Lake fire,” Selesky said. “Some of them were there for just a couple day,s but some stayed for the entire fire.”
The Red Cross coordinates with local motels and merchants to provide for victims. “We can provide up to three nights’ lodging as well as food and bedding,” Selesky said. During incidents requiring mass evacuations, churches and schools can provide temporary relief. But a plan needs to be in place ahead of time and a coordinating group with trained volunteers established, he added.
Since the beginning of its fiscal year on July 1, volunteers from the Superior-Upper Peninsula Chapter have responded to 35 incidents, providing nearly $24,000 of assistance to 115 clients; 45 of whom were children.
While some volunteers choose to work exclusively in their communities, others travel to provide aid to victims of natural or man-made calamities. Selesky stressed that volunteers of all ages and experience levels are welcome.
The American Red Cross is funded solely by public donations. However, contributions can be designated for use within a specific geographic area, Selesky added.
To volunteer contact The American Red Cross at (906) 228-3659 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.