By London Lyle
Sopris Sun Intern
At the end of the month, American Red Cross is hosting two mass care shelter trainings in western Colorado for community members interested in volunteering during times of natural disaster. Coloradans are no strangers to natural disasters — wildfires particularly. And, these trainings come on the heels of the devastating wildfire on Maui.
The free training will be held at the Third Street Center in Carbondale, from 10:30am to 3:30pm on Aug. 30, and at the public library in Eagle, from 10am to 3pm on Aug. 29. Both will be capped at 40 participants. In fact, the Carbondale training is already booked, but there are still spots open in Eagle. Free lunch will be provided at both.
“It’s kind of like the entry level training for anybody who is interested in helping out in one of our shelters,” said Joshua Stewart, a regional recruitment manager for American Red Cross. “The interesting thing is that this is more of what we would call a partner training, in that we’ve got the community organizations active in disasters,” he continued. “There are a handful of people who are signing up through one of the counties they might work for … so they have some normal role in disaster response [already]. They might not sign up to be ongoing Red Cross volunteers, but they’re still attending a training so they can understand how one of our shelters operates.”
Stewart explained that there will likely be some people at the training who are solely interested in volunteering on a local level, and others interested in being deployed nationally.
For volunteers who only speak Spanish, there will be staff available who are fluent in Spanish. The Red Cross hosts volunteer events open to the public like this quite often. Stewart emphasized that it’s important for everyone to come together, empower one another and help prepare fellow community members to respond if and when disaster strikes.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” he summarized. “In an ideal situation, if there’s something that happens in the Roaring Fork Valley, we have people already trained and equipped who are able to open up a shelter and take care of the people who are evacuated, without having to bring in somebody from outside.”
Stewart gave the example of a fire in Rockport, Utah in 2013. “A lot of people from the community came out,” he said. “We had a pizza place that was like, ‘Hey, can we feed everybody in the shelter tonight?’ … Everyone does their part.”
As for the situation in Maui, reportedly, the Red Cross has more than 300 volunteers currently deployed on the ground helping reunite families separated in the chaos. They have 12 individual shelters opened, and are providing the shelters with as many additional volunteers, physical resources, comfort and care as possible in this time of extreme distress for so many. So far, 2,600 people have filed paperwork requesting the need for reunification, and family separation remains a major issue.
If you’d like more information regarding the mass care shelter trainings in Carbondale or Eagle, visit www.wmrcoad.org