Record Staff Writer
Throughout 187 countries, 13 million volunteers respond to roughly 700,000 disasters a year, but the American Red Cross does more than show up when these diasters strike.
With a branch in Southeastern New Mexico, Red Cross is focused also on individual tragedies, said Development Coordinator Gale Landrum.
Even if just one family experiences a house fire, the Red Cross is called, and a Disaster Action Team (DAT) steps up to assess the damage, find a hotel for the family and provide the family with money based on the damage. All of this is given to them via a Client Assistance Card.
“Our efforts don’t stop there though,” Landrum said. They also help families fill prescriptions, replace glasses and work with mental health situations.
The local DAT branch responded to more than 55 fires in Chaves County, as well as surrounding counties. Overall, the Red Cross of Southeastern New Mexico has seven counties in its main jurisdiction, Landrum said.
Although they have been very successful in distributing clothes, food and shelters to those hit by disaster – much of it due to the support they receive from United Way, Landrum said – the most challenging aspect of the Red Cross is the recruiting of volunteers.
“I think so many individuals get the perception that if you volunteer you’re committed to everything,” Landrum said. “That’s not the case.”
In the event of a disaster, a volunteer will be notified, and they can then decide at that time if they can help or not. Regardless, every volunteer is trained in CPR, AED, First Aid and other safety courses. Roughly 9 million Americans participate in these training programs nationwide, according to the Red Cross website.
The Red Cross also is the only nonprofit organization authorized by the military to offer services to the armed forces, which Landrum said is a real honor. According to its website, the Red Cross helps 150,000 military families and veterans every year.
Besides helping after disaster strikes, Landrum said they also are trying to prepare people before anything ever happens. This is a special focus for the month of September as it is National Preparedness Month for the Red Cross.
“People say nothing ever happens in Roswell, and we are very lax,” Landrum said. “But we need to get the message out that disaster can strike at any time.”
In case of an emergency, the Emergency Service Coordinator, Kathy Webb, has determined what places can be used as shelters should large numbers of people have to evacuate an area. The Red Cross is also handing out brochures and giving people information on what to do and what items to have.
With everything the Red Cross does, Landrum said it really comes down to being able to help people.
“The most gratifying part for me is being able to assist families in the face of emergency,” she said.