603645_502752356444686_1842059643_nThe American Red Cross South Mississippi Chapter has a veritable army of volunteers. At last count it numbered more than 1,000 people and it continues to grow on a daily basis. The volunteers give of themselves and come together for one reason…to ease the suffering and uncertainty when disaster strikes their fellow man. They come from all walks of life, possessing a variety skills and strengths that are often called upon at a moment’s notice. Disasters come when we least expect it, giving us very little warning if any at all, and they devastate lives. The very special people of the South Mississippi Chapter provide support, supplies, shelter, food, and above all, compassion and love, to those affected by disaster.
The South Mississippi Chapter encompasses 13 counties. Emergency services are provided following any type of disaster. The mission of the Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the event of an emergency by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. The Disaster Services Team makes sure that communities are always ready and well prepared for situations such as severe weather, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fire.
Assistance to the Armed Forces is available around the clock. Pre-deployment briefings are offered at military bases. The Red Cross provides these briefings so service men and women become familiar with the many services available to them after they are deployed. They are advised about necessary information for family members and how to proceed with emergency communication through the Red Cross if the need arises. Follow up case work care is another service offered. For example, if there is a death in the family or a new baby has arrived, a Red Cross case worker will contact the family to offer help and support. The gentle voice of a Red Cross volunteer is always welcome and appreciated.
There are hundreds of blood drives that take place each year, resulting in the collection of thousands of pints of blood. 40% of the nation’s emergency blood supply comes from the Red Cross. The Health and Safety division of the Red Cross provides First Aid and CPR classes to the public, as well as Aquatics and water safety classes. A course in Babysitting is also available to anyone who intends to take care of babies and young children. The latest addition of Red Cross public service is through smart phone mobile apps. There are five individual apps and each is free of charge. They provide a wealth of information on First Aid, Tornadoes, Wild Fires, Hurricanes, and Earthquakes. Each is available in Spanish as well as English. This is life saving information at your fingertips!
Every single day, 365 days a year, the Red Cross is recruiting and training volunteers throughout the United States. In the event of a disaster, the call goes out and everyone springs into action. There are many different key areas addressed. The Red Cross volunteers are well trained and poised to open shelters immediately when necessary. They maintain the shelters and register everyone who walks through the doors. Mobile feeding and fixed feeding is also provided. Meals are brought into the shelters, as well as taken to various sites, where the need is greatest. The transportation of food is made possible by the Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVS) which distribute meals and snacks throughout communities affected by the disaster. There are national trucks (ERVS) housed across the United States and if there is a need, they are sent out immediately. There are five trucks at the ready within the South Mississippi Chapter and there are several dozen throughout the whole Mississippi Region. The South Mississippi ERVS are strategically located in Hattiesburg, Pascagoula, and Biloxi and can be deployed at a moment’s notice.
Client case work and damage assessment are also services provided by the Red Cross after disaster strikes. Specially trained volunteers are vital to these efforts. Damage assessment teams canvas the neighborhoods immediately following the catastrophic event to evaluate what has happened. A count of every home or building is taken, noting what properties have been severely damaged or destroyed, as well as if there was only minor damage. Next ERVS and case workers are dispatched and go wherever they are needed. Very carefully and methodically, the Red Cross volunteers go about their respective jobs and looking after those in need.
They also provide emotional and health services for those affected by disaster and have staff who stand ready to help. Red Cross canteen services support emergency personnel and provide food, snacks, water and coffee to ensure first responders stay well-hydrated and fueled for the job at hand.
Last but not least, Red Cross provides bulk items such clean-up kits, comfort kits, tarps, shovels, rakes, and other necessary items to those affected by disaster. Sometimes, something as simple as a toothbrush can mean the world to someone who has just lost all of their possessions. The Red Cross volunteers arrive on the scene with smiling faces and calm dispositions. Their presence alone makes a huge difference as victims struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives and carry on after the onslaught of a disaster.
It is a tremendous task to keep the Red Cross warehouses stocked with food stuffs and supplies, yet the volunteers do that too. Every disaster is different. It can be a one family house fire to an entire city being affected, such as with the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. Regardless of the size and scope of the disaster, the Red Cross is always ready. The shelters in South Mississippi have just been restocked and are prepared for the 2013 hurricane season. The Red Cross partners with numerous donors and businesses that generously support this effort.
It is because of community involvement and community support that the Red Cross flourishes. This chapter is a member of the local VOAD, which is Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. There are over two dozen members of this organization in South Mississippi. The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Mississippi Baptist Association, and the United Way to name just a few. The Coast casinos are also very generous partners with the Red Cross, doing everything they can to support its mission. The South Mississippi Chapter is so grateful for all the support from their many donors, partners, and volunteers.
Anyone can be a Red Cross volunteer. The application process is very easy and convenient. It takes just a few minutes online and if you don’t have a computer at home, you can fill out your application at any Red Cross office. There are many different volunteer opportunities, from answering phones to being a part of the Disaster Services Team. The South Mississippi Chapter needs people with happy faces and the willingness to help others. It is such an amazing opportunity and it will change your life. Volunteers are always updated through additional training as resources, information and needs change. Training programs are periodically re-evaluated and enhanced so they have the best and most current information available to all volunteers.
Background checks are done on all applicants and orientation is the first step in becoming a volunteer. Everything is explained in detail by the volunteer coordinator and you may select your mode of service, working whatever schedule best suits your particular situation. All disaster training takes place free of charge. There are many enjoyable and rewarding avenues of service available. Contact the South Mississippi Chapter to find out more. There is no better way to give back to your community than being a volunteer with the Red Cross…and it will change your life.
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Go To Places Monthly is extremely proud and honored to name the American Red Cross South Mississippi Chapter volunteers as our Movers and Shakers for the month of June. Congratulations!

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