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Never Too Young To Help Others
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Jeffery L. Biggs , Volunteer, American Red Cross
August 28, 2007

The youth volunteer movement is alive and well in Minnesota’s flood ravaged southeastern corner. Members of Americorps, along with the American Cadet Alliance (ACA) are partnering with the American Red Cross disaster relief operation to assist the residents of Rushford, MN.

During a Sunday morning briefing at the Rochester National Guard Armory, where Red Cross relief operations are headquartered, Sgt. Jason Albers of the ACA discussed the upcoming mission of the joint efforts as Americorps workers listened attentively.

“We’re going in to Rushford for three days and two nights and conditions are pretty messy,” Sgt. Albers informed the assembled Americorps workers. “We will walk in, and it’s about three miles. On a disaster scale of 10, this is probably a 6 or better.”

This mission – rather, partnership – includes searching for missing people and pets, delivering water, food and first aid supplies, and providing general support in communications and electricity.

Sgt. Jason Albers of the American Cadet Alliance briefs Americorps members volunteering with the American Red Cross in Southeast Minnesota on conditions to be expected in the flooded town of Rushford.
Sgt. Jason Albers of the American Cadet Alliance briefs Americorps members volunteering with the American Red Cross in Southeast Minnesota on conditions to be expected in the flooded town of Rushford
(Photo Credit: Jeffery L. Biggs/American Red Cross)

“The Red Cross will provide the resources and supplies we need,” said Sgt. Albers. “Whatever we need to deliver, they will provide it, or help us get it.”

The conditions the relief workers can expect to encounter definitely aren't for the faint of heart.

“It’s going to be muddy – very muddy,” the sergeant acknowledged. “I was down in Rushford yesterday (Saturday), and some of the workers were in knee-deep mud. Some of these places still aren’t accessible by auto. Be prepared for a dirty job.”

Being in dirty locations is something that Americorps workers are used to. Utilizing a partnership that has been in place for several years between the Red Cross and Americorps, this group of workers has helped on many different disaster operations from wildfires in the Northwest to Hurricane Katrina.

Josie Sanderson of Brookings, S.D., a member of Americorps and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), is one such worker.

“I worked five wildfires this summer,” the energetic Sanderson said. “I’m used to getting dirty and taking those baby wipe baths.”

Sanderson believes that the partnership with the Red Cross is one that will be beneficial to both organizations.

“Well, I’ve always believed that saying ‘two heads are better than one’,” said Sanderson. “We’re still working to get the Americorps name out to the public, and one of the best ways we can do that is by working with the American Red Cross.”

In fact, the NCCC-which is part of Americorps-and Red Cross missions go hand in hand, as Sanderson points out.

“We are both looking to provide disaster assistance to those who need it most, and bv working together we can get that done,” she asserted. “I’m excited to be on this mission and I’ll be using the training which the Red Cross has provided to me.”

Red Cross training, such as Introduction to Disaster Services and CPR and First Aid, will help this young woman and other Americorps workers provide the assistance needed in the devastated Rushford area. Josie Sanderson is certain they will succeed.

She said, “We need to get in there and help out, that’s what we’re here to do. Work with the Red Cross and others and make sure people get what they need.”

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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