By Spc. Danielle Gregory, Fort Sill CannoneerJune 14, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- "I gave this lady a Gatorade and she was so excited," Petra Yahn said. "I got so many blessings, kisses and hugs, and I'm thinking, 'It's just a stupid Gatorade,' but in a disaster situation it means so much more; people are so grateful. You don't get paid for this, but seeing people's reactions when they see the Red Cross come through is something that you couldn't pay me for."
Thousands of people like Yahn, an American Red Cross volunteer for more than 20 years, signed up to volunteer with the Red Cross within a few days after tornadoes hit Moore and El Reno, Okla. They actually had to turn people away said Rob Rogers, Fort Sill Red Cross station manager.
"The amount of goodwill is incredible," he said.
The Red Cross wants to take that goodwill and focus it through training for the next disaster as well as continue to get new volunteers to help with disaster relief in Oklahoma, Rogers said.
"It is just the world that we live in, there will be a next time," Rogers said. "We are encouraging people to go ahead and register with us so we can begin to train them for the next disaster. We are also still accepting people in our shelters and in the clean up effort. We are going to be on the ground there for a couple months."
People can sign up as spontaneous volunteers for as little as half a day by calling Daniel Farrell, 580-355-2480, a representative at the Lawton Red Cross office, who will connect them with immediate volunteer opportunities and training.
However, those who can't currently volunteer to help those people effected by the tornadoes can still help by getting prepared for the future. "Now is a great time to train up," Rogers said.
To be certified, volunteers need to learn the best way of serving victims," Rogers said. "Sometimes it's listening, sometimes it's connecting them to a resource and sometimes it's taking them to a Red Cross shelter."
The Red Cross can train youth and adult volunteers to work with victims who have experienced a loss; register victims with Safe and Well, a website that connects family members after a disaster; basic life saving; how to respond to downed power lines; running shelter services; and responding to different scale disasters, from single-home fires to powerful tornadoes like those in Oklahoma. Volunteers can even be trained to deploy internationally.
"We have hundreds of people who called and wanted to go to Moore to help, but they can't just let anybody in," Yahn said. "If you want to deploy under the Red Cross symbol, you have to be trained, and that has to happen before a disaster hits."
Even with all her training, Yahn still cried at the devastation she saw while helping tornado victims, but she said that the Red Cross is a tightknit group and have support for their volunteers such as counseling.
"It's 12-hour days, and I was tired and I cried a lot, but it's a good tired, and it's so rewarding and worth it," she said.
People interested in training to become a volunteer can visit the Red Cross website, find their local chapter and click "volunteer applications" to apply for classroom training and go through an online orientation.
The application includes registration to the Red Cross' new website "Volunteer Connection," where volunteers can sign up for upcoming classes in their area to be certified and get more information to be a Red Cross volunteer.