By Crystal Burns
The American Red Cross MidWest Tennessee chapter needs local volunteers to carry out its mission 14-county service area.
David Hicks, chapter executive director, solicited help from the Trenton Exchange Club last week.
“We are truly a volunteer-run organization,” he said.
There are only two full-time paid staff members on the MidWest payroll. The group shares two employees with the MidSouth chapter and has a volunteer who serves as its Services to the Armed Forces representative and government liaison.
The Red Cross is commissioned by Congress to relay messages of life-changing events in soldiers’ lives to the deployed soldier.
“We have had some amazing stories,” Hicks noted.
While most Americans may think of the Red Cross in terms of the organization’s response to areas ravaged by hurricanes, wildfires and floods across the country, local chapters oversee Disaster Action Teams that respond to house fires in their home counties. The Red Cross guarantees local fire departments and dispatchers that a Disaster Action Team will be on the scene of a house fire within two hours of receiving the call.
Volunteers provide comfort kits and also put cash in victims’ hands. Hicks said the Red Cross uses a national formula to make sure families receive money they can use in that moment to purchase food, medication, clothes and lodging until insurance money or other aid is rendered.
Hicks said the national nonprofit is working diligently to ensure that a family in Tennessee receives the same services as a family in Wisconsin.
“We are one Red Cross,” he said. “That took a lot of effort to mimic that from state to state, but we’re almost there.”
Hicks said there are currently no Red Cross volunteers living in Gibson Co. Applications to become a volunteer are online at www.redcross.org/tn/jackson. You can also call or email Heather Carbajal, the MidSouth chapter’s disaster program manager, at 731-571-7140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hicks said he is also looking for Gibson Co. representation on the chapter’s board of directors. Contact him at 901-208-0152 or email@example.com.
Local Red Cross chapters also facilitate the Pillowcase Project, which teaches fire safety and prevention to students in third through fifth grades. Hicks said the educational program got its name from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where volunteers saw children hauling pillowcases full of their most prized possessions – a favorite stuffed animal or toy, family photos and clothes – into temporary shelters.
Each child receives a pillowcase to keep their emergency escape plan and other informational literature. Hicks said the Pillowcase Project doesn’t just reach children, but their households.
Red Cross volunteers partner with local fire departments to canvas neighborhoods and install free smoke alarms.
“I’m really proud of that,” Hicks said.
The Trenton Exchange Club meets the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at Centennial Bank in Trenton.