Although it no longer has a local office the American Red Cross responded to 20 disasters in Highland County in 2017. To make sure that continues to happen, the Red Cross says it needs local volunteers.
Marita Salkowski, regional communications and marketing director for the American Red Cross, said that last year it helped 20 families with 20 disasters – 18 were due to fires – with a total of 85 people receiving assistance in Highland County. The most recent was a Dec. 29 fire on Dickey Avenue in Greenfield when two cases were opened by the Red Cross to provide shelter for victims of that incident.
The problem is that the Red Cross currently has just six volunteers to cover all of Highland County.
“We need volunteers. It is an area and county were are particularly short in. So we really need to push for volunteers to help us with disasters in that area,” Salkowski said.
“I think a lot of people, when they think of disaster response from the Red Cross, they think of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and things like that, and we do respond to those things. But we also need hometown heroes to responded to things in their hometown communities when anybody is displaced,” she added.
The Red Cross can help local disaster victims financially (according to a formula), and with shelter, food, health services, mental health services and even things like wheelchairs, medication or crutches that may have been lost in a fire or other disaster and are needed by a victim, according to Salkowski.
“Usually, the area fire departments work with us when they know a fire has reached a place where a family is going to need a place to stay,” Salkowski said. “We try to get there as quickly as possible and let them know what kind of services we can provide. Sometimes we find out other ways, too, and we reach out to and check on those people to find out what they might need.”
Across the nation, the Red Cross is called upon every eight minutes to provide hope and help to people in need, a Red Cross news release said.
The Clinton and Highland County American Red Cross office that was located in Wilmington closed at the end of March 2015. Highland County is now part of the Greater Cincinnati/Dayton American Red Cross that serves 26 counties in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
Anyone interested in volunteering can visit www.redcross.org/volunteers or call 513-579-3000 or the direct line for Tammy Simendinger, the regional volunteer services director, at 513-579-3031. Service representatives will reach out to perspective volunteers with information including how to fill out the required forms, how to get engaged in training and other resources.
Salkowski said most volunteers work for the Red Cross in the counties where they live and that there are many roles they can fill like office work, collecting donations or serving at actual disaster sites. There are also opportunities to help on a more regional level, based on the person’s interest level and skill set.
“There is a wide variety of what volunteers can do for the Red Cross,” Salkowski said. “They are an extremely important aspect of our work force and we could not carry out our mission without them.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected].