GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "2015 was a relatively quiet year. 2016 has been busy for the Red Cross and Mississippi. We've had five major disasters in Mississippi alone," said John McFarland, Executive Director of the Red Cross South East Mississippi Chapter.
Now, the Mississippi Red Cross is stretching itself even thinner; responding to flooding in Louisiana and recent Hurricane destruction in Florida.
"We can't afford not to have enough trained volunteers. People often call us and say 'I wanna help, can I go somewhere?' Well, not until you're trained," said McFarland.
Because of the outpouring of community support, Red Cross chapters across the Gulf are offering intensive training to those who wish to help out at shelters.
"Shelter workers, we always need a lot of. This training class would get them an orientation in to the Red Cross - a quick one - an orientation in to deployment, an overview of disaster operations, but it will focus on shelter work," McFarland added.
During the past two weeks, the Red Cross has trained more than 60 new disaster volunteers, including 25 members of the Beau Rivage staff.
Mary Cracchiolo-Spain, the Biloxi Advisory Board chair, helped coordinate the Beau Rivage volunteers.
"I encourage anyone to help in whatever way they can, and I think our employees like being hands-on so we're looking forward to taking our people over there and helping en masse," Cracchiolo-Spain said.
After working with the Red Cross for more than a decade, the advisory board chair knows first hand what it's like to reach out.
"So many people helped us after Hurricane Katrina. This gives us the opportunity to pay it forward, or pay it back. There's this intrinsic benefit of feeling like you're helping others," said Cracchiolo-Spain.
The six-hour orientation and basic disaster training will take place Thursday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Gulfport, Pascagoula and Hattiesburg Red Cross offices.