Red Cross needs help helping others

When disaster strikes, the Canadian Red Cross jumps into action.

Canadian Red Cross volunteers Sharon Reid and Cecile and Cor Zandbergen urge anyone interested in a rewarding experience to attend the volunteer information session Friday at The Talking Donkey.

Canadian Red Cross volunteers Sharon Reid and Cecile and Cor Zandbergen urge anyone interested in a rewarding experience to attend the volunteer information session Friday at The Talking Donkey.

When disaster strikes, the Canadian Red Cross jumps into action.

Whether it’s a fire or flood, the Red Cross is there to help families and individuals faced with emergency situations.

But this time the local organization needs help.

The volunteer-based organization needs more helping hands for the North Okanagan area to ensure Red Cross can continue to assist others in need.

An information session will be held for anyone interested in learning about volunteer opportunities Friday at The Talking Donkey at 2:30 p.m.

Cor Zandbergen has been a volunteer in Vernon since 2001 and has since advanced into a management position as the operations leader for B.C. Southern Interior, as well as a disaster management volunteer.

“We provide primary back-up services to address the unmet needs, including housing, food and clothing,” he said.

“It’s been very satisfying personally for my own growth and satisfying in serving people in times of stress,” said the retired paramedic, who at the time of retirement was looking for a way to serve the community.

While many of the volunteers have varying backgrounds in the medical field, some bring other essential skills to their work.

“There’s so many different fields you can volunteer in,” said Cor’s wife Cecile, who as a volunteer has travelled all over, from Kelowna to Bella Coola and Seaton Portage and recently returned from Nelson.

The opportunities range from answering phones at the office and setting up community fundraisers to working on logistics and travelling to communities to assist in emergency response.

Sharon Reid is also a disaster management volunteer, and during Red Cross’ response to the Oliver mud slides last year she was able to assist from home. With a phone and computer at home, plus her prior computer skills, she worked behind the scenes to help. She has also been a vital volunteer in human resources during emergencies.

Along with prior skills, all volunteers are fully trained to deal with emergency situations.

“You need to be trained first and this is the time when Red Cross does training in B.C. before the summer fires,” said Reid, who became a volunteer in 2007 after reading an article in The Morning Star.

“This is the perfect opportunity,” said Reid, encouraging community members to come out to the info session. “If people are interested now really is an ideal time.”

On average, volunteer commitments are four to six hours a month, but depends on the number of disaster responses underway.

“The Red Cross is being called on more and more as of late,” said Cor, who has been deployed everywhere from Pakistan to Williams Lake.

Locally, Canadian Red Cross is also involved in a pilot program with Emergency Social Services to assist individuals displaced from their home after ESS’s 72-hour response time is up.

Therefore responses can be local or may require volunteers to pick up and go at a moment’s notice and be gone anywhere from a day to a few weeks. But volunteers do have the option to say yes or no to each response.

But in each response, all volunteers agree that the reward is worth it.

“One of the rewards is you are already starting to see them recover and you’re just giving them that extra push they need,” smiles Reid.

To RSVP to the upcoming info session contact Sammi Bowden at 1-800-661-3308, extension 0 or sammi.bowden@redcross.ca.