The Red Cross mobilizes the power of volunteers to suffering in the face of emergencies.
During its National Volunteer Week, which was held recently, the agency recognizes and salutes an estimated 650,000 volunteers.
Volunteers are central to the work of the Red Cross in communities across the country. On average, the Red Cross has 15 volunteers for every one employee. Red Cross volunteers teach first aid, CPR, swimming and other lifesaving skills, respond to disasters and reconnect families separated by disasters or conflict, support blood drives across the country, help military families in the United States and overseas, and serve in Red Cross leadership positions across the country.
The Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 disasters every year, ranging from a home fire involving one family to bigger events like hurricanes and tornadoes that affect entire regions. With Red Cross Disaster Services training, volunteers respond with food, shelter and comfort in neighborhoods across the country.
In Southwestern New York, volunteers work to help the Red Cross serve Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. Bob and Beth Shook of Cuba are just one example. In March, Mrs. Shook dedicated nearly 260 hours to the American Red Cross with her husband adding a considerable amount as well. Together they worked on planning, organizing and designing the chapter-wide disaster exercise on March 24. Then, on the day of the event they arrived early and left late as they helped Red Cross staff in the final evaluations to ensure that when a disaster does affect Southwestern New York, the Red Cross and its volunteers are ready to assist the community.
The Shooks play an important role in the Red Cross. Shook is an active board member serving as emergency services chairman as well as a committee member for Savor the Flavor - a Taste of Allegany County. He also serves as a Disaster Action Team captain, responding at any time to a family in need. Mrs. Shook not only volunteers as disaster volunteer coordinator for three counties, but also responds to national disasters. In the past, Mrs. Shook responded to disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Joplin, Mo., tornadoes, and several other disasters. Locally, she helps in the grant writing process and serves on the disaster action team.
"Without volunteers like the Shooks, the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York would not able to serve the vast area that we do," said Rosanna Bonfilio, coordinator of volunteers. "Our volunteers give all they can to help their community and expect nothing in return. That is a true volunteer, and that's what the Red Cross is all about."
For more information about volunteering with the American Red Cross, call any of the agency's local offices in Jamestown at 664-5115, Olean at 372-5800 or Wellsville at 585-593-1531. The American Red Cross of Southwestern NY is a United Way agency.