Salvation Army trains new volunteers for disaster relief

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Many of the volunteers who came to the Salvation Army's disaster training session say dealing with disaster is something they know quite well.

"A lot of us here lived through Katrina, so we do have some first hand experience," said volunteer Sheila Luedke.

Bill Feist, the Emergency Disaster Relief Director for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, said the volunteers' experience with disasters like Hurricane Katrina will help them empathize with victims on a level others cannot.

For a day and half, volunteers went through three courses. They included emotional and spiritual care, safe food handling and how to prepare for deployments to disasters and what to expect upon return.

"An untrained volunteer can be a disaster within a disaster," Feist said. "So having pre-trained volunteers who are excited about a particular ministry is a great benefit."

In addition to learning new skills, the sessions also facilitate new partnerships.  Volunteers with Aglow International, a Christian relief organization, were among those taking part in the training.

"We all have strengths in different areas," said Aglow International volunteer Sheila Luedke. "Aglow is very strong in the emotional and spiritual aspect of relief.  To come along side somebody like the Salvation Army that's been there and done that throughout the years and been very successful, I think is going to be a great team effort."

"This is our first experience with the Salvation Army and we're thrilled," said Glenda Fleming with Aglow International.

In the future, Salvation Army leaders plan to hold sessions more consistently to create more partnerships and keep the need for volunteers filled when disasters strike.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.