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Red Cross urgently needs disaster response volunteers 

Red Cross urgently needs disaster response volunteers 

Source: Canva

June 14, 2024 8:51 AM CDT
By: Lisa M. Hale

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GREEN BAY, WI – (WGBW & WISS) – The American Red Cross needs disaster response volunteers in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Rebecca Rockhill, Executive Director of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross says the number of disaster events keeps increasing. 

“Heading into this season,” Rockhill said. “If we don’t raise our number of volunteers, we are really going to have a hard time providing for the need.”

Dedicated volunteers respond at a moment’s notice. However, because there is an increase in the number of weather-related disasters, such as floods and tornadoes, in addition to home fires, more volunteers are needed.

“We’re calling on our current volunteers more and more to respond in a minute’s instance with disaster action,” said Rockhill. “The volunteers we have now are wonderful and are responding, but it’s not enough for the increase in the need. It’s not necessarily the decrease in volunteers. It is an increase in the number of responses.” 

Where disaster response volunteers are needed

Rockhill said there is a critical need for volunteers in the Northeast Wisconsin and North Central Wisconsin chapters of the Red Cross, specifically in the 8 counties it serves in the Upper Peninsula. Those counties are Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Menominee, and Ontonagon.

“Any time disaster volunteers are needed; they go where they can,” said Rockhill. “We have two phenomenal volunteers up in Iron Mountain, who receive the call time after time and go where they are needed. They’ve been doing this for 14 years. They are tired, but they come every time!” 

The volunteers Rockhill mentioned are John and Lynne Wilson of Iron Mountain, Michigan, who began volunteering after retiring as a way to give back to the community. 

“When I started volunteering, the UP of Michigan had over 20 volunteers now, they are down to three to cover such a large territory,” said John Wilson. “The Red Cross offers something for everyone and it’s an easy way to serve your community and help your neighbors.”

Rockhill said the Red Cross needs Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers throughout the Northeast Wisconsin Region, not just in the U.P. area. She added that they need all types of volunteers.

“If we have volunteers who are interested but say ‘I don’t want to get that call in the middle of the night, or responding in a moment’s notice isn’t feasible for me,’ there are plenty of other types of volunteer opportunities,” said Rockhill. “Perhaps helping with the prep work or helping with recovery.” 

Disaster Action Teams work a variety of events

Rockhill said this year looks to be active for area DATs. Wisconsin, in just one month, has already exceeded the average number of tornadoes in a year. The Red Cross sends its disaster response team volunteers to a variety of disasters, from weather-related events to home fires. 

“When we look at the number of disasters, we have 60,000 emergencies that the Red Cross on average tends to respond to across the nation, per year,” said Rockhill. “The majority of these are home fires.”

Rockhill said there have been 398 disaster response incidences in Wisconsin this year to date. In the eight counties of the Upper Penisula covered by her chapter, there have been 20 disasters this year.

How to volunteer

According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering provides health benefits. It improves physical and mental health. Provides a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills. And nurtures new and existing relationships.

“Quite honestly, we never know when we may find ourselves in a situation where Red Cross volunteers may be just the comfort we need,” said Rockhill. “And in fact, many of our disaster volunteers have been recipients of some of the services and have turned around and said, ‘We want to give back.’”

The American Red Cross wants to make it easy to volunteer, so it has set up a website that will walk you through the types of volunteering a person can do based on passion, interest, and availability. 

“We provide complete training through that site and through working with Red Cross staff to make sure no one is out in the field as a volunteer without feeling fully prepared, and confident, and comfortable; and, originally, always working side by side with someone who is well-seasoned,” said Rockhill. 

Rockhill added that giving blood is also a way to volunteer with the Red Cross to help the community.

Below is the press release from the American Red Cross on the need for volunteers in Northeast and North Central Wisconsin and the U.P.

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