Friday, September 02, 2005

The Journal World on Volunteering

Volunteers have tough task waiting for them |

Jane Blocher, executive director of the Douglas County Red Cross, said she had seen many e-mails about disasters from national Red Cross headquarters but never one like the message she received Thursday seeking volunteers to aid Hurricane Katrina victims.

The e-mail warned: “All areas of assignment are horrendous ... extreme hardship ... There is, and will be, NO electricity, thus NO air conditioning, no potable water, very limited cell phone coverage and no hard line (telephone) coverage.”

“I have never seen words like ‘horrendous’ or ‘extreme hardship’ underlined and bolded in an e-mail,” Blocher said. “This is not an assignment for sissies. You have to be tough.

Douglas County Red Cross has created special training sessions for area volunteers willing to head south for hurricane relief.

The two three-hour sessions can accommodate 25 people. But more training sessions can be formed if enough volunteers come forward, Blocher said.

There already were 25 volunteers signed up for training by Thursday. Bill Brubaker was one of them.

He said he thought he had what it took to help the relief effort. He spent 32 years working for the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical and has spent the past year working for Douglas County Emergency Management.

“I’ve been in public safety all my life, and you can’t get it out of your blood. There’s a need, and I have some skills,” he said.

He said he heard Blocher on the radio Thursday talking about the need for volunteers to be deployed to hurricane-damaged areas. He signed up for training sessions, which will be held Wednesday and Sept. 12.

Because Brubaker already has had CPR and first-aid training, Blocher said he should be going soon after the sessions for a three-week assignment.

“The biggest challenge they will face is hearing the stories of the people we are assisting,” Blocher said. “It’s heart wrenching. When they see firsthand the impact, it will be gut wrenching. I think it will be a life-changing experience for them.”

Blocher said she would like to send 100 volunteers from Lawrence.

“I think we’re up to the challenge. This is the biggest relief operation that our organization has ever undertaken,” she said. “It’s a huge challenge, but the good news is there’s been an outpouring from people who feel the need to go down there and help make a difference.”
My emphasis. If you have the requisite skills, the time, and the endurance, please do this. It's God's own work. If not, I understand completely. Maybe you can spare a couple bucks to help pay these brave people's way? Drop some cash on the Red Cross.

If you think you can't afford it, think about ways you can save money and free up needed resources. There are people with no food, no water and no home. They don't have phones or cell phones or computers. They don't have cars and they couldn't get gas into their car if they did.

Carpooling with n other people will save each person (n-1/n) of their usual driving expenses. Write a check for that amount and send it to your favorite charity. If you know someone within 300 miles of the areas affected by the Hurricane, encourage them to clear out the guest room for some people who lost everything, and check on Hurricane Housing to connect to people in need.

Maybe you can make fewer cellphone calls this month, and send the savings to a group that will build a home for someone. Maybe you can buy one less pizza, or buy cheaper conventional produce, rather than the nice organic stuff. A few million people lost their city, these are all small prices, and you truly can make a difference. If $10 is what you have, that's great. If you have $135, you can get a CD and a book from the folks at Crooked Timber. But please do something.