People and Places:American Red Cross Volunteers

Columbia (WACH) " "When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is there." Those words ring true each time there is a tornado, earthquake, or even house fire. When the call goes out, the Emergency Response Team rolls into action.

Although it happens fast, it is a very coordinated response that has been trained for so that the needs of a community or individual are met as quickly as possible. Dave Harbison, Asst. Disaster Director for the Columbia Region of the American Red Cross, says it starts with members of the volunteer leadership that assess the nature of the disaster, who drive the affected area and talk to the victims. "They serve as our eyes and ears," Harbison says. The Emergency operations staff is also very quick to respond to the area, to address the specific needs to the community. As the situation evolves, the Red Cross looks to a host of people who all work together, providing respite, shelter operation, victim casework and even food preparation.

An example of a volunteer that has turned his vocation into an asset to the Red Cross is Bobby Roberts. Roberts is a retired truck driver who now owns Navigator Catering. When he is called upon by the Red Cross, he brings his knowledge of food service to the table.

"When I retired, I was sitting there, and my son said Dad, let TMs go join the Red Cross. I TMve been in it ever since," says Roberts. His responsibilities include organizing food donations from the community, local stores, and even the Harvest Hope Food Bank. He also operates the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), that drives through affected areas delivering food. Roberts also lends his ladle and cooks a lot of the food that is served to victims and the volunteers that work tirelessly when called upon.

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Most recently, Roberts was called upon to work at the Belmont Baptist Church on Mason Rd., feeding the work crews who were cleaning up the Greenview neighborhood after last week TMs storm. Even days after the storm had passed, volunteers and workers cut trees, cleaned debris, and gave what relief they could to those who were still feeling the impact of the storm. "When you TMre doing work like that, you TMre going to need a good meal," he says.

Roberts is a great example of a volunteer who can apply what he knows to a relief effort. Anna Kate Christophillis, the Regional PR Manager for the Red Cross, says that volunteers can come from all walks of life. "(Skills in) clerical, fund raising, public affairs, or the disaster work," according to Christophillis, can be utilized by the Red Cross.

"There is always a need (for volunteers) and there are never too many," says Harbison, "We can find everyone in the community to do in order to assist their neighbors."

Over thirty-two homes were destroyed, and about one hundred and twelve people were displaced in the Greenview community as a result of the storm that passed through the Midlands last week.

Click here to learn more about the volunteer opportunities with Midlands Chapter of the American Red Cross, or need assistance related to the storm call 803.540.1215.

(This story courtesy Good Day Columbia contributor Tyler Ryan.)