Rather than standing by during a disaster, consider lending a helping hand by volunteering with the Four Corners chapter of the American Red Cross.
The organization responds to local disasters by providing victims with basic needs, clothing, emotional support, temporary housing and emergency funds.
The local chapter could use more volunteers, said Todd Parisi, disaster action team coordinator for the Four Corners Red Cross.
“There are a lot of opportunities for volunteers. We need more in all of our towns so we can respond to help our neighbors and visitors when they are having a bad day,” he said.
Local chapters have come and gone, and there was not one locally for a while, Parisi said. The retired Dolores County EMT decided to organized a new chapter in 2015 based out of Dove Creek.
It currently has five to six volunteers to cover the Four Corners area. Ideally, they would like to have more volunteers spread out in Cortez, Dolores, Mancos, Towaoc, Rico and Durango.
The Four Corners chapter responds to about 10 disasters per year, Parisi said, arriving in a donated old ambulance full of supplies. Often they are called in to help people who have lost homes to fire.
“Imagine losing everything in moments. They are in a state of shock and have nothing but the clothes on their backs wearing flip-flops,” Parisi said. “We provide the support they need to get their bearings and start the recovery process.”
Victims are issued debit cards to purchase immediate necessities such as clothing, food, or a hotel room.
The Red Cross also lends a hand during extreme weather emergencies such as the 2015 Christmas blizzard that closed U.S. Highway 491 overnight between Cortez and Dove Creek and dozens of people stranded on the highway in their cars in freezing weather.
Dove Creek’s 12 hotel rooms quickly filled, Parisi said, and Red Cross volunteers arranged overnight shelter for stranded motorists in area churches and local homes.
Other times, they help out victims of vehicle crashes or someone who has broken down. During the Weber Fire, they were on standby set up an emergency shelter. They record names of shelter attendants so family members can find each other.
In responding to an emergency, Red Cross volunteers help in many ways. They comfort victims, run errands, pick up family members, gather supplies, set up shelters or take care of pets or livestock.
The local chapter will have a chapter meeting May 12 at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to attend. Volunteers must pass a background check, and go through a training process.
For more information on volunteering with the Red Cross and to fill out an application visit redcross.org