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Red Cross Continues to Build Partnerships, Recruit Volunteers Following Katrina
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Katie Lawson , Staff Writer, American Red Cross
September 4, 2007

Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast and the devastation it caused in much of coastal Mississippi and Louisiana was unparalleled and unimaginable. Remembering Hurricane Katrina two years later, Americans everywhere recall images of destruction and chaos.

Following Katrina, the Red Cross and its disaster response partners assembled quickly, meeting the immediate needs of 1.4 million families, but the work did not stop there. Understanding the magnitude of the disaster, the American Red Cross promptly launched the Hurricane Recovery Program (HRP) to concentrate on the long-term needs of hurricane survivors.

Many trained Red Cross volunteers worked around the clock to provide basic necessities to hurricane survivors and continue to do so today. As Americans and the world reflect on that deadly storm two years ago, the Red Cross remembers that they cannot go it alone. Creating new partnerships with national and community organizations to assist when disaster strikes is a must in order to prepare for the future.

Ready When the Time Comes

As a result of the tumultuous 2005 hurricane season, the Red Cross learned many lessons about preparing for future disasters. Realizing that catastrophic disasters can create more demand for services than any one organization can handle, the Red Cross has developed the Ready When the Time Comes program to focus on recruiting new partners and volunteers.

This program was developed by W.W. Grainger, Inc. in partnership with the American Red Cross. Grainger, the leading broad line supplier of facilities maintenance products in North America, is headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill.

Each year, the American Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 disasters. This task requires not only Red Cross employees and trained disaster volunteers but also specially trained, quickly mobilized volunteers who can fill specific needs. Ready When the Time Comes is designed to recruit and prepare such volunteers.

Sixteen Red Cross chapters are now engaged in program pilots. By 2009, they hope to gain many more new corporate, community and not-for-profit partnerships that can work together with the Red Cross.

“Since the beginning of the pilot program, 1,648 volunteers have been trained by Red Cross staff. That’s 1,648 new volunteers trained and ready to help should disaster strike,” said Martha Patterson, national program manager for Ready When the Time Comes. “By the end of the pilot period, we would also like to have 100 new corporate partnerships and an untold number of newly trained volunteers.”

Training Volunteers

Red Cross chapters all over the country regularly seek out partnerships with corporate and community-based organizations. This recruitment program gives employees of these organizations an opportunity to become Red Cross volunteers in their community and be able to assist during large-scale local disasters.

These volunteers have the opportunity to not only receive training themselves, but to invite their spouses and children over the age of 15 to be trained by Red Cross professionals as well.

“Each chapter offers flexible training options and family friendly courses,” explained Patterson. “It is designed to fit into any corporate timeline, and we can even bring the training into the workplace.”

Every volunteer is educated in different specialty areas specific to their individual chapter’s needs. Some chapters may respond to more house fires than floods. In this case, a volunteer’s training would be focused more on damage assessment rather than bulk distribution of goods. Other areas of training include casework, sheltering, public relations, mental health and many more.

Since the beginning of the pilot program in July 2006, Ready When the Time Comes has already produced 52 new corporate partnerships around the country.

“With the Ready When the Time Comes program, the Red Cross will be in an increasingly better position to respond to disasters with more trained volunteers,” said Patterson. “It has been extremely successful from the beginning and we are looking forward to another good year.”

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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