The American Red Cross has had a strong presence in Wilkes County for well over 50 years and Red Cross volunteers have helped Wilkes people get through some of their most trying times.

These volunteers are now organized into disaster action teams, often one team per county and ready to respond when needs arise 24-7.

Last week, the Red Cross issued an appeal for help filling about 20 vacancies on disaster action teams in Wilkes and other northwestern North Carolina counties. Nine of these 27 volunteers are needed in Wilkes, which currently is being served largely by Red Cross volunteers in other counties.

Because of the large number of house fires in Wilkes, this county garners a large portion of the Red Cross volunteer assistance provided in northwestern North Carolina.

Disaster action team members contact families when they lose their homes in fires and determine what they need. They arrange for Red Cross funding for temporary lodging in local motels, meals, clothing and for meeting other basic needs. They also provide emotional support and help families in need get connected with various community resources. This can include Red Cross physical and mental health services and spiritual care.

Also in northwestern North Carolina, Red Cross volunteers staff emergency shelters amid widespread electrical outages; bring meals, snacks and drinks to firefighters battling mountain wildfires; teach first aid and CPR classes; distribute and install smoke alarms, help with emergency management planning and much more.

In the process, they develop relationships with their neighbors, faith-based supporters, first responders and community officials and benefit from knowing they’re making a difference in the lives of others.

The Red Cross prepares people to become disaster action team volunteers by requiring and providing eight online training classes followed by one-on-one training provided by an experienced team member.

Due to COVID, these volunteers currently are reaching out to people in need mostly via phone or computer. Depending on the situation, they still have the option of providing in-person service delivery. This could include contactless delivery of resources, opening and operating a shelter after a major disaster, or providing canteen to first responders during an emergency.

Disaster action team volunteers must be 18 or older, compassionate, able to demonstrate impartiality and empathy and have basic computer skills and knowledge.

Go to redcross.org/DAT to learn more and obtain an application for becoming a disaster action team volunteer. A local team representative is available to answer questions at GCARVolservices@redcross.org and at 336-646-4047.

The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and generosity of the American public to perform its mission. Locally, the Red Cross receives financial support from United Way of Wilkes.

The Red Cross supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood by conducting bloodmobiles, provides international humanitarian aid and provides support for military personnel and their families.

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