Ned Russell: Volunteer for the Red Cross |

Ned Russell: Volunteer for the Red Cross

“Thomas Ingram to serve as chairman of the Red Cross Committee.” — The Union, May 1917 (From “100 Years Ago in Nevada County: May 1917” by Brad Prowse, The Union, May 26, 2017.)

The year 1917 isn’t a mistake or a typo; 2017 is the 100th year the American Red Cross has been present in Nevada County!

Some years there were many volunteers, some only one. For many years, there was an official chapter with an office and paid staff. For other years, including the most recent 10, there were only a few volunteers, your friends and neighbors, dedicated to preventing disasters, preparing for them, and responding when needed.

Although nearly everyone is aware of the Red Cross, knowledge of the organization is limited for many to what is seen on media reports for large disasters. A few facts:

One of our greatest challenges is having enough volunteers, adequately trained and available, when they are needed.

• Of the 400,000 people in the American Red Cross, 90 percent are volunteers.

• Nearly 100 percent of disaster funding is from donations.

• All assistance is free to those in need.

• The major services are disaster, armed forces, blood, health and safety, and international.

• The Red Cross responds to an emergency every eight minutes, approximately 70,000 per year.

• Most of the disasters are single and multiple family house fires.

• Many “disaster” volunteer jobs are preparation or support/back-office type, not front line.

• One program teaches third through fifth graders how to be prepared.

• Another program puts smoke alarms in high fire-risk neighborhoods (900,000 plus to date).

• An average of 150,000 military veterans and families are helped each year.

Maybe the Pleasant Fire in North San Juan, Hurricane Harvey, or the large non-hurricane evacuation, the Oroville Dam scare, has you thinking about how you can help beyond donating. There are back-office jobs even for the largest disasters; for example, staffing for the shelter at the First Baptist Church was done by phone, email, and texts, while some staffing for Harvey was in Dallas, far away from the flooding.

For a family who has lost all or part of their home to fire, flood, mud slide, a falling tree, or other natural or man made disaster, their disaster is just as large to them as when thousands of other people are in the same situation. Local volunteers respond when they are called.

Volunteers are not automatically sent out to a disaster — they choose when, where, and what they do. Some of our volunteers want only to serve in large disasters, others only local, some front line, still others only preparation and back-office, and some newer volunteers just learning the ropes.

Most of our local activity is getting prepared for whatever disaster might befall western Nevada County. This includes training, agreements and familiarity with potential shelter locations and local resources, writing articles to attract more volunteers, booths at events for preparedness education and recruiting, and placing smoke alarms where most needed. No one does everything!

Please consider joining the Red Cross, or, at least, learning more about being a Red Cross volunteer. One of our greatest challenges is having enough volunteers, adequately trained and available, when they are needed.

Thomas Ingram was the California District 3 senator when he took a lead role in establishing the Red Cross in Nevada County in 1917. At various times, he was on the Grass Valley Board of Education, president of the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, and managing editor at The Union. (The Union, Sept. 21, 2014). A busy fellow, but he managed to fit the Red Cross into his life.

Red Cross volunteers will be at the Roamin’ Angels Car Show on Sept. 9 (although the show runs Sept. 8-10) and will have time to chat if you come by. Please email if you are interested but cannot attend the show.

Ned Russell lives in Grass Valley.

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