Thanks to Diane Tinney for her interview with Disaster Manager, Lou Palm.
Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has over 650 chapters in 36 regions dedicated to saving lives and helping people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Each year, the American Red Cross responds to more than 70,000 home fires in addition to responding to other disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and man-made disasters. In addition to responding to disasters, the Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood to over 3,000 hospitals nation-wide.
Our local chapter, Coastal South Carolina, operates out of The Market Common, and is part of the larger Columbia Region Red Cross. I had the honor of meeting with Lou Palm, Disaster Manager for our local chapter of Red Cross.
DT: How many volunteers do you manage?
CCRC: Currently we have about 160 disaster responding volunteers, including our 15 trainers. We are actively looking for more volunteers, especially in the Loris area.
DT: What are the training programs for volunteers?
CCRC: We offer free disaster services training in the following areas: Shelter, Client Management, Damage Assessment, and EMS. There are also advanced level training as volunteers become more experienced, we help them develop skills and experiences to coordinate with community and government partners.
DT: Are all trainings held here locally?
CCRC: Generally all initial disaster service training is conducted at The Market Common location (on Pampas Drive). Additionally we export training to other areas. At times, our volunteers will travel outside the immediate area for advance classes which are held in a central location to get the most students from the region and state.
DT: What type of Red Cross chapter is our local Coastal South Carolina chapter?
CCRC: Our Chapter is the base for the comprehensive programs and services offered by Red Cross throughout the country. Staff and volunteers are available to assist individuals with such things as local disasters by fulfilling the needs of victims of disaster. Additionally we provide preparedness training, assist individuals and groups in receiving health and safety training such as CPR, First Aid, AED. The Red Cross is the place a member of the military or their family can reach out to 24 hours a day/7 days a week if they are in need of emergency messaging and active duty and retired veterans can apply for emergency loans through the Red Cross. Red Cross is also working closely with the military and its community in meeting the needs of military families who have loved ones who are about to be deployed, are deployed or returning form deployment. We also train volunteers in preparation of national disaster response.
DT: Can you give us some idea of the activity you’ve experienced since last July?
CCRC: As of March 16th we have helped 305 clients, 113 of whom are children. These clients are from Horry, Georgetown, and Williamsburg counties.
DT: Do your volunteers only work in Horry County?
CCRC: The Red Cross is a large family – we all work together to meet the needs of those in times of trouble. No, we assist in the greater Columbia region, but also go out of state as needed. Since last July our volunteers have assisted in 11 different states including Mass, NC, and VT. Already this storm season we deployed two volunteers to assist in relief efforts from the tornado in Kentucky And another two to help with flooding in Louisiana.
DT: What is the average age of a volunteer?
CCRC: In our chapter, our volunteers range from 30 to 73 years young. We have a volunteer that is 96 years old. And we have several families whose children have been involved with volunteering since pre-school age.
DT: Are there any specific skills you are looking for in volunteers?
CCRC: The Red Cross welcomes and encourages diversity in its volunteers – we truly believe that if you have a desire to help your neighbor and be part of something that truly makes a difference in everyone’s life, there is a place for you in the Red Cross. We can train volunteers for basic skills, but we do need Mental Health professionals to join us locally. They help victims, staff, and volunteers during disasters – as you can imagine it can be very draining while working a disaster situation.
DT: What types of fundraising helps our Red Cross chapter?
CCRC: The Red Cross is a non-profit organization, not part of the government and all of our funds must be locally raised. For example, the Red Cross Rescue Racers raise money while training for and running in the Myrtle Beach Marathon. Our largest Annual campaign is our heroes for the ARC campaign, chaired by Ed Piotrowski of WPDE News Channel 15 – this campaign and group of volunteers work together to generate $150,000. The Heroes Campaign is based on the premise that Neighbors Help Neighbors Key for donors is to know that the money raised here supports local services. So you are truly helping your community. And March is American Red Cross month.
DT: Do other nonprofits in the community help?
CCRC: Yes, we have community partners with Goodwill, Salvation Army, Mercy Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, and several other nonprofits.
DT: How can someone volunteer?
CCRC: We have volunteer orientation each month at our chapter house in The Market Common – 3531 Pampas Drive; or they can call (843) 477-0020 for more information. Those desiring to volunteer should call to obtain the date of the next Volunteer Orientation.
DT: Any advice for our local readers as we approach June 1st start to Hurricane Season?
CCRC: Yes, be sure to review the Hurricane page of the American Red Cross website. There you will find tips on being prepared and what to do when you can return to your home after a hurricane. My personal tip to all is for pet owners – shelters will not take pets, so be sure you have a plan for your pets as well.
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