Red Cross to recruit more soon

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 25, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; The Red Cross and Concordia Parish emergency officials aim to have 100 trained volunteers ready for whatever the 2006 hurricane season blows this way.

After two training sessions Wednesday, they are about a tenth of the way there. And while Homeland Security and Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Morris White said he had hoped for a larger turnout, he feels good about their chances.

&8220;You&8217;ve got to shoot for the moon if you ever want to get off the ground,&8221; he said. &8220;If we do it 10 people at a time, we&8217;ll get there.&8221;

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Those people who attended the training session are now qualified to operate a Red Cross shelter during any future emergency situation, a designation White would like to see more people earn.

It&8217;s not easy getting people to think disaster on a gorgeous April evening, however.

&8220;It&8217;s a funny thing about volunteers: the trouble is getting them to train. If we have a disaster, they come out of the woodwork,&8221; White said.

In other words, Concordia Parish residents are gamers.

Like any good coach, White and the Red Cross appreciate the spirit, but they know the value of practice.

&8220;A lot of that time is spent learning the Red Cross policies so that shelter workers can better serve the clients,&8221; Gebhardt said.

The clients aren&8217;t the only ones aided however, as prior preparation prevents much of the stress induced by on-the-job training.

&8220;The less you know about something, the more stress you feel about it,&8221; White said.

Less stress leads to less burned-out volunteers, which leads to more a more successful operation overall, White said.

What Gebhardt wants people to know is that the Red Cross is not some faceless organization in Washington, D.C., that doles out money after hurricanes.

&8220;The Red Cross is made up of community volunteers,&8221; he said. &8220;The bottom line is that the community is responsible for caring for itself during a catastrophe and the Red Cross is a tool for the community.&8221;

The parish is hoping that Red Cross support will help it fund the additional $2-plus million it will take to turn the future Gateway Convention and Visitor Center into an 800-1,000- capacity emergency shelter.

White estimated it would require 40 volunteers to man the shelter 24 hours a day.

There will be another training session May 3 at 6 p.m.

The location is set tentatively for the Vidalia City Hall meeting room but is subject to change.

And don&8217;t be surprised if you get a personal invitation from White.

&8220;Now I&8217;ve got to go one-by-one and dig them out,&8221; he said.

It&8217;s not like it&8217;s hard.

&8220;Nobody&8217;s going to give them a test. When they finish with the class, they&8217;ll know it.&8221;