The American Red Cross, an organization that has helped needy people in crisis for over a century, has a need itself â€” volunteers.
â€œWe always need more volunteers,â€ said Louann Freshour, Lincoln County chapter executive director. â€œWe could not provide the services we provide without volunteers.â€
According to the Red Cross Web site, the number of volunteers greatly outnumbers employees. Nationally, the Red Cross employs 35,134 workers but enlists the help of 822,602 volunteers.
In Lincoln County, the difference is even greater, with only two paid employees and 368 volunteers.
Volunteers participate all in facets of the services the Red Cross provides to the community, whether during times of crisis or not.
Members of the Disaster Action Team receive training and rotate being on call in case of emergency. They dutifully drop everything to help those in need during disasters, providing them with food vouchers, clothing and shelter.
â€œI had never had a personal experience with a disaster before,â€ said Andie Brymer, a Lincoln County DAT member. â€œI knew they happened but I didnâ€™t really it on a real level. Itâ€™s so incredibly devastating for these people.â€
Disaster volunteers can become nationally certified through the Red Crossâ€™s Disaster Services Human Resources program, which allows them to respond to areas of crisis across the country.
Eight volunteers from Lincoln County made the trip to the Gulf Coast to help out during Hurricane Katrina, said Freshour.
Besides coming to the aid of residents during disasters such as fires, floods and hurricanes, the Lincoln County chapter also provides many other services to the community.
The Red Cross puts on around 96 bloodmobiles every year, which volunteers help to put through greeting donors and organizing.
All the classes the Lincoln County chapter provides, including water and health safety and lifeguarding, are taught by trained volunteers.
â€œI think in a lot of these classes, people think they are paid instructors,â€ said Freshour. â€œWe donâ€™t have any paid instructors.â€
With all the services the Red Cross provides, volunteer recruitment and retention is crucial to a chapterâ€™s survival.
Lincoln Countyâ€™s chapter does much of its recruitment through word of mouth. Though the core group of volunteers is strong, Freshour would like more willing hands to help out avoid burnout.
â€œThe same people are having to be on call over and over,â€ she said.
The chapter is looking for all types of people in all capacities. A good number of volunteers come from retired adults, who have a little extra time and energy on their hands, Freshour said.
Keeping volunteers active is also a problem, especially when there are no disasters going on.
â€œThe retention of the volunteers is just not as good as I would hope,â€ said Freshour. â€œWhile the crisis is there we have the volunteers but when itâ€™s over they concentrate on something else.â€
Freshour and the Lincoln County chapter Board of Directors are currently working on ways to keep people involved and connected, including monthly meetings and more community outreach.
â€œI think everybody if they possibly can should try to do something without getting something back in return,â€ said Brymer. â€œI donâ€™t think (the Red Cross) could do it all if it wasnâ€™t for volunteers.â€
The Lincoln County Chapter of the American Red Cross is located at 527 N. Aspen St. in Lincolnton. For more information on becoming a volunteer, call (704) 735-3500.
by Mary Williams