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After hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters, people need help — perhaps a place to sleep, a meal, emotional support, or help navigating the disaster recovery process.

And Stephanie Fox of the American Red Cross says trained volunteers can provide much of that critical assistance.

“Our volunteers help shelter, feed, distribute supplies, provide comfort and care of the mental health and spiritual nature,” she says. “They conduct damage assessment. They coordinate casework.”

To train their volunteers, the Red Cross runs free workshops. They cover topics such as food safety, shelter management, and psychological first aid.

“That advanced training and that advanced engagement really allows us to best utilize folks … to make sure we have those positions filled,” Fox says.

She says climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather disasters. In 2020 and 2021, the Red Cross averaged a new major disaster response every 10 days.

“That’s with Red Cross volunteers continuously on the ground, setting up shelters, arranging hot meals, and sheltering thousands of people who had no other place to go,” Fox says.

So she says the need for disaster relief volunteers is greater than ever.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media