Help area families: Volunteer with Red Cross

WEST PALM BEACH — As Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service was celebrated, Jan. 20, the American Red Cross encouraged residents to volunteer through its Home Fire Campaign throughout South Florida.

Through the Home Fire Campaign’s year-round Sound the Alarm events, volunteers and community partners spend a day going door-to-door to install free smoke alarms, share fire safety information and help families create escape plans at homes in at-risk communities.

Since launching more than five years ago, the campaign has installed more than 2 million free smoke alarms and saved nearly 700 lives nationwide, including installing more than 31,800 smoke alarms and making over 15,000 households safer across the South Florida Region. Basic training is provided to volunteers who want to join the campaign; visit SoundtheAlarm.org/SFL to get involved.

“Every eight minutes our Red Cross volunteers across the South Florida Region are responding to local disasters. Sadly, the majority of these disasters are home fires and our neighbors in the communities we serve need our support to help them and their families stay safe,” said Joanne Nowlin, chief executive officer for the South Florida Region. “We encourage everyone to take part in this rewarding experience of teaming with fellow volunteers to make homes safer and connect with local families.”

How to volunteer. As the nation honors the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., there are many ways that you can help in your community. The Red Cross is always in need of volunteers and has available positions in the following areas:

• Disaster Response: Disaster Action Team members are trained, dedicated volunteers who respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice. They provide 24-hour immediate support and assistance to individuals who have been impacted by a home fire or other local disasters. From offering a shoulder to cry on, to meeting any immediate need and connecting people with long term recovery services – our volunteers ensure that families don’t have to face difficult times alone.

• Preparedness – Red Cross Disaster Preparedness volunteers teach people how to reduce the risk of disaster, prepare to respond effectively, and cope with disasters when they happen. Opportunities include educating youth on disaster safety, installing smoke alarms, educating families on fire safety, and engaging with community organizations to spread public awareness about disaster preparedness.

• Sheltering – Sheltering is a key piece of Disaster Services within the American Red Cross. Our shelter volunteers are trained to help provide shelter for people displaced as a result of a disaster, such as a hurricane. Alongside other Red Cross shelter volunteers, you will help operate and maintain shelters, and assist the shelter’s residents by supporting their needs during a disaster.

Why volunteer? Tony Nazzaro, a Red Cross volunteer from the Southern Gulf Chapter shares why he volunteers for the Red Cross. ”I read a story when I was young, about a boy walking along the beach tossing starfish back in to the sea, when an old man said there were thousands of starfish on the beach and that he couldn’t possibly make a difference, the boy picked up another starfish and tossed it in to the sea, saying I made a difference to that one. That story has been a guiding light in my desire to volunteer, to make a difference, one person at a time. The American Red Cross allows me to fulfill that ability, we make a difference, one life at a time.”

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