Red Cross volunteer assisting Hurricane Katrina victim (courtesy: Red Cross)
In the largest recruitment drive in its 125-year history, the American Red Cross issued an urgent call for 40,000 new volunteers to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“This is a disaster of such scope and such significance, it’s not going to go away in a few weeks or a few months,” said Red Cross spokesman John Degnan.
“We’re putting out an appeal to people to step forward and volunteer so they can be trained.”
People are needed to help feed, house and comfort survivors of a disaster Degnan called “unprecedented in its impact” in the United States.
“We’re not going to be able to fix this overnight,” he said. “We’re going to need a long time and a lot of people.”
The private charity will need the first shift of 10,000 volunteers in two weeks to begin relieving the 36,000 recruits currently deployed.
The Red Cross has taken in 160,000 evacuees in 675 shelters across the nation and provided 6 million hot meals, Degnan said.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact their local Red Cross.
The group says it will provide training in fields such as shelter management, public health and working through government bureaucracies established to aid disaster victims.
“It may seem like pretty simple to come into a shelter and help out,” Degnan said. “But when you are dealing with large numbers of people in a congregate living facility you need to be trained.”
A report earlier this week revealed the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security blocked Red Cross trucks filled with water, food, blankets and hygiene items from bringing relief to the thousands of hungry and thirsty evacuees stranded in the New Orleans Superdome after the hurricane struck
The state government office explained to the Red Cross it wanted the evacuees to leave and were afraid the relief supplies would become a magnet, causing more people to stay, according to Fox News.
The Red Cross posted a “Disaster FAQ” on its website which explained, “Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.”
The charity says, “The state Homeland Security Department had requested – and continues to request – that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.”