FORT IRWIN, Calif. - The Fort Irwin station of the American Red Cross hosted a volunteer drive at the Post Exchange here, Jan. 16.

Event organizers said the volunteer drive was designed to ask the Fort Irwin community for volunteers and also to raise awareness about the services offered by the Red Cross. Stephanie Luce, the Fort Irwin Red Cross station manager, said even though her station's primary function on post is emergency communications messages, there are other services that Families on post can receive through the Red Cross.

"We're here to support the Soldiers, the command and the Families. If a Family has an emergency and they don't know who to turn to, they can come to us. I want them to know this door is always open," said Stephanie Luce, the Fort Irwin Red Cross station manager. She said volunteers are paramount to her organization. "I depend on volunteers; we have a lot of volunteers at the hospital, and at the (veterinary) clinic.

"When you volunteer, not only are you giving back to the community, you're actually helping yourself. It shows you're willing to work even if you're not getting paid and you're in a location where there isn't any (work) for you. It's all very valuable experience," she said.

Luce said there are about 30 active volunteers on Fort Irwin, including Soldiers. Volunteer opportunities range from technical-specific fields such as hospitals and clinics to clerical duties in offices and even at the tax center.

"Even if somebody's interested in an office that we currently don't have volunteers in, most offices are going to accept help from a competent person, so it never hurts to ask," said Heather Adams, a volunteer at the Red Cross station.

The American Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1881 by Clara Barton. The American Red Cross has the distinction to be the only Red Cross organization to work with its nation's military forces. Currently there Red Cross stations set up around the world wherever there are Soldiers stationed, even in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Red Cross is involved in humanitarian aid following natural disasters around the world, most currently with the earthquake earlier this month in Haiti. True to the volunteering spirit that is inherent in the Army, Soldiers and their Family members have already started to look for ways to provide aid for those in the devastated island nation.

Luce said a Soldier wanted to donate shoes to the Red Cross to help. She advises others to donate money instead of solid goods.

"The money would be used for medicine, to help pay for rescue equipment and services over there," she said. "The best thing people can do in a situation like this is, unless there's a call for a blood drive, is to donate money, it's the easiest thing to move, there's a lot involved when you're shipping goods."

For more information about volunteering opportunities with the Fort Irwin Red Cross station, please call Stephanie Luce at (760) 380-6140. For more information about donating to the Haiti earthquake relief, please call the High Desert Red Cross Chapter at (760) 245-6511.