The South Carolina region of the American Red Cross relies on their volunteers to carry out the work that they do every single day, with volunteers carrying out 90% of the humanitarian work accomplished across the board. There are more than four hundred volunteers that assist with the Red Cross of Eastern SC chapter, which includes Horry County as well as Myrtle Beach. Throughout the state, volunteers number more than 2,800.
American Red Cross utilizes volunteers daily so they can focus on keeping costs low, and make providing relief to those in need, their paramount priority. Volunteers assist with everything from ensuring that the Red Cross’ fleet of vehicles is up-to-date and maintained, to opening and running shelters and evacuation centers. But the thing they do the most often is respond to local home fires. For this job, they are on call 24 hours a day.
Volunteers are there right alongside the fire department, bringing hope, comfort and care to residents who may have lost everything. Throughout the entire state of South Carolina, the Red Cross responds to an average of six home fires daily.
Many people feel overwhelmed at the thought of volunteering to assist with a disaster, feeling that their lack of previous experience precludes them from being capable of helping. But prior training isn’t necessary or needed. Trainings sponsored by Red Cross are offered year-round, on specific topics such as how to run a shelter or drive a response vehicle.
Often, if there is a large disaster, volunteers will fly to other states to help. Their touch can be felt throughout the state and the country, not just in their local place.
The best way for people to sign up to volunteer is to visit www.redcross.org/volunteer. Some high schools in the area have Red Cross clubs with student members who are willing to help out throughout the day.
Red Cross hosts blood drives daily throughout Horry County; volunteers are always there to assist, and also transport the blood donations to local hospitals. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, volunteers drove around with hot meals to distribute to those who didn’t have food, power, or access to food.
Volunteers have a presence in veterans’ hospitals throughout the state, working directly with veterans in therapy classes. Twenty-five percent of these volunteers are twenty-four-years-old or younger.
“The volunteers are the heroes of Red Cross,” says Amy Brauner, executive director of the Eastern South Carolina chapter of American Red Cross. “They are the ones who pause their personal lives and jump into the midst of whatever we ask them to do.”
The application process to become a volunteer is fairly simple to fill out and can be done online. Afterwards, Red Cross will reach out to the volunteer, to figure out where that individual is most interested in assisting. The individual will attend training and be ready to go.
The Red Cross wants to remind people that they can volunteer with their family and friends on any type of project— or even initiate a project of their own. Schedules are flexible, with volunteers always setting their own.
“We always need volunteers,” says Amy. “We try to put money in the hands of the people who need it the most. Because our volunteers do so much, it allows us to do more work in South Carolina, and make the most out of the donation dollars we receive.
“We know it’s a sacrifice, what our volunteers are doing, so we hold appreciation events for them throughout the year, and always thank them when we see them. We want to make sure that they feel appreciated for what they do, because this work isn’t always easy. And we couldn’t do it without them.”