About three weeks ago, rains from Hurricanes Irene and Lee pummeled the east coast. Several areas were flooded, including the Susquehanna River along the. City of Harrisburg, PA. I immediately started think about what I could do help.
I created a facebook page to ask people to donate clothing, non-perishable foods, and baby supplies. I started trying to contact local churches or organizations who could get me in contact with affected families. I learned a lot this past weekend, when I drove out and dropped the donations off.
1. The American Red Cross has opportunies to serve with their Disaster Relief teams. This means that when a flood, tornado, earthquake, etc. Occurs, they call up all of their voluntters and ask who can go to that location. These people drop what they are doing and give their time and skills to help those affected. I met people from Calfornia, New Jersey, and Northern Pennsylvania.
2. Most Red Cross chapters do not have the capacity to accept donations. People go to the Red Cross and receive vouchers for whatever they need. They take those vouchers to the local food pantry, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. Those places will have a section set aside solely for Disaster Relief.
3. Some Chapters are able to have simply show up and help, while others require training and background checks before you are able to volunteer. This is to protect the victims, as well as the Red Cross themselves from being hurt or taken advantage of.
4. Many volunteers you will encounter naturally take care of people and give of themselves. They saw I was traveling alone, and that I drove 370 miles to get there and immediately asked how they could help me. Did I have a place to stay? Did I have money for food? Did I have money for gas? I was okay, but I walked away with a phone number for one of the volunteers, $30, and orders to go somewhere nice for dinner and relax. They also said to call if I got stuck, scared, or just needed help and they would brainstorm to figure something out.
If you are interested in donating, volunteering, or learning more about how you can be involved, go to www.redcross.org.
What has been your experiences with volunteering in the past?