Red Cross makes big push for volunteers

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The American Red Cross quickly responded to help the tornado victims in Greene County. Now, the organization needs your help. With many summer programs getting underway and hurricane season ahead, the Red Cross wants to be prepared for any emergency.

On Tuesday, the South Mississippi chapter hosted its first major volunteer outreach program.

"Sign here and pick up a bag and take a walk around," a Red Cross told a group of people waiting in line.

About 40 potential volunteers, young and old, flocked to the Donal Snyder Community Center in Biloxi Tuesday.

"Take a look around. We have a lot of opportunities," the volunteer told them.

They learned why there is such a critical need for American Red Cross volunteers. There is a job to fit everyone's time, talent and training. And they are needed, not just when a disaster strikes.

"We have everything from someone who can answer the phone and be a friendly face for the Red Cross, to someone who can drive an emergency response vehicle or a nurse who can help in one of our shelters," said Julie Fife, an American Red Cross Client Recovery Coordinator.

The South Mississippi chapter has 225 active volunteers. But it can use reinforcements, especially after the Greene County tornadoes.

"We actually had to send 60 client case workers who would help with those tornadoes," said Fife. "So it's important to have a large amount of volunteers in our database. We want to make sure that we have 50 great volunteers today, so we can help with anything that's needed."

Joanne Webb signed up because the Red Cross reached out to her right after Katrina.

"We lost everything we had and when I look at these people up in central and north Mississippi, I see the destruction that has happened up there. It brings back old memories," said Webb.

The Long Beach woman has several interests.

"I'm interested in any of the programs they have for children," Webb said. "I'm also interested in helping with the blood drives where I don't have to mess with the blood."

And volunteers like Gloria Harlan provided personal testimony to the rich rewards of serving others.

"It's a great feeling," said Harlan. "I'm very happy to be with them and working for them. And I think anyone who wants to come in and volunteer will find the same experience."

The Red Cross will host two more volunteer fairs in the coming months. One is on May 19 at the Diamondhead Country Club from 4:00 PM until 6:30 PM. The other is scheduled for June 8 at the Lyman Community Center from 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM. The Red Cross also offers free training.

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