TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - With the devastating hurricane season and wildfires destroying parts of the west, the need for Red Cross volunteers has increased. However, volunteer spots sit open.
At the peak of their distasters, Executive Director Courtney Slanaker said they had more than 700 positions open.
And as Tucson volunteers begin to return from their deployments, some are already getting calls to return to the field.
“We’re stretched pretty thin right now," said volunteer Joe Middendorf. ″I’m getting calls all the time to deploy."
Slanaker said despite COVID-19 their work has not stopped. Only a few jobs can be done remotely, and there’s been hesitation to return to the field.
″I think COVID has definitely impacted our volunteer base and our first priority is to protect our workforce," said Slanaker.
Kathy Lauer, fresh off her first deployment to Louisiana, saw the shortage firsthand. Working at one of the main shelters she saw a continuous stream of evacuees while the number of those helping remained stagnant.
“We had over 1400 evacuees there and they kept bringing in more because they were closing down smaller shelters, and so there weren’t more volunteers just more people to take care of," said Lauer.
This comes as hundreds are seeking shelter to escape these hurricanes, many left without a home to return to.
“Some of the evacuees would show me pictures on their phones of their homes or businesses and that just hit me really hard, more than just seeing a picture on TV," said Lauer.
That’s what drives volunteers like Lauer and Middendorf. It helps them get through the 12-hour shifts, passing out more than 2 million meals. They just need a little extra help, to help others for work that is a reward in itself.
“The little things that I do are small to me but their essential to the people we’re dealing with," said Middendorf.
The number to call for people to donate is 800-HELP-NOW or they can text REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation. If people want to explore ways to volunteer or donate you can go to redcross.org