Written by Maggie Buckenmayer, American Red Cross Volunteer
“We didn’t have any first aid supplies when we first arrived, but we could triage and call 911 for ambulance support,” stated Natalie Wren who lives in the Chico area. Natalie was one of the first ‘event-based volunteers’ – community members who volunteer to help during a local emergency – who showed up at the Red Cross shelter at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on February 12, following mandatory evacuation orders in the area of the Oroville Dam. She learned of the call for health care practitioners from a friend on Facebook and contacted four of her friends, all of whom are in their fifth semester in nursing school. All five rushed to the shelter to volunteer.
After the customary background check, Natalie earned her official 30 day probationary Red Cross volunteer badge and jumped right to work helping shelter residents with their health care needs. When asked what made her volunteer, she responded, “I volunteered to feel part of something bigger than myself. Helping the shelter residents was why I became a nurse and having it happen in my own backyard is a crazy experience.”
Natalie also commented that during her first nursing classes she learned about Clara Barton and the Red Cross and has wanted to become a volunteer for the Red Cross since.
Natalie’s story is just one of many event-based volunteer success stories. Since the Red Cross opened the Silver Dollar Fairground shelter, more than 375 people have registered to be volunteers.
Niko Marin, another future volunteer, registered as a volunteer and is also a student at the fire academy at nearby Shasta College. Niko is excited about using his fire fighting training to make him a better Red Cross volunteer.
Eva Marquez, lead for the event-based volunteers at the Silver Dollar shelter was touched by the communities support. “We have lots of volunteers from Chico State as well as area residents. The turnout has been very good.”
Engaging event-based volunteers in Red Cross work is a win-win proposition for the community and for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross provides community members with an outlet to channel their desire to assist their neighbors in the aftermath of a disaster. In turn, the volunteers bring a variety of skills, the motivation to help, and their knowledge of the community. Together, the American Red Cross and event-based volunteers are able to provide support to those affected by disaster when they need it most.