The Iowa Region of the American Red Cross is hosting information sessions where people can learn about the response efforts to Hurricane Florence and how to become a trained Red Cross volunteer.
Disaster Program Manager, Keith Kuperman says they’ve been getting more calls since the hurricane watch started — and they want to take advantage of that. “This is a great time for them to get involved with the American Red Cross and find out the services we offer and how they can get involved on a regular basis,” Kuperman says. He says the national disaster response creates a need for more help.
“During the time of a hurricane response there’s also a large need for our region to be supported while we deploy out our seasoned volunteers to the hurricane event,” he says. Kuperman says those who are interested in learning to volunteer would have some work to do before they would deploy outside the state.
“The new volunteers after they do complete their training, they would be allowed to get sent out, but we would not send out any volunteers without completing their necessary training,” according to Kuperman. “So, after we do the information session we are also going to be hosting an in-person training session. And on top of that, we have plenty of training which is available online once they do register to become a volunteer. So, right now what this is is basically preparing for the next event.” Kuperman says they are always looking for new volunteers.
“We can definitely always use a little bit of extra help,” he says, “we are up to over 50 volunteers that have been assigned or deployed to this operation,” Kuperman says. “And the need most likely will increase, because the rivers have not crested and there is a lot of flooding going on right now in the region that Florence hit. So, right now there is a growing need.” Kuperman says the first thing they look for in new volunteers are people who have a passion for the mission of the Red Cross to help others. And he says they look for people who are flexible and can adapt.
“Because you may be someone who has an accounting background that is trying to get deployed working in finance — but when you get down there there may be a greater need for sheltering — so you would have to help set up a cot. You just need to make sure that you are flexible to help the people that need it the most,” Kuperman explains. And he says you have to be flexible enough to know you aren’t going to be staying in a five-star hotel.
“So, you would be sleeping on cots, you would have the blankets that we use. There’s no better treatment for the volunteers and the staff that are going out there to assist than the clients. So, you need to be someone that is flexible with staying in those conditions,” Kuperman says. The Red Cross pays the travel and lodging expenses when you are sent out as a volunteer to help with recovery. Kuperman was a volunteer before he took this job, and says while you don’t get paid, you do get the positive benefits of helping others.
“It was such a rewarding experience that it really made me want to change my focus in life and dedicate everything to the mission of the Red Cross and become a disaster program manager,” Kuperman says. “So, it’s extremely rewarding to be that person who is out there to help the people in need.” The next informational meeting is set for Wednesday from 11 a-m until 12 p-m at the American Red Cross office in Des Moines.
If you can’t attend the information session, you can call the Red Cross state-wide conference line to receive the information. Call 1-866-617-3597 and use Participant ID: 585288#. You can also become a registered Red Cross volunteer by visiting redcross.org/volunteer.