Woodward, Okla. —
March is American Red Cross month and the regional Red Cross office is asking for additional volunteers to get out and aid their communities across Western Oklahoma.
Regional Director of Communications Ken Garcia said, "We're a volunteer organization, in fact 96 percent of our workforce across the nation is made of volunteers, so we're always on the lookout for people wanting to help their community."
Now with the Red Cross' new Volunteer Connection system, Garcia said getting involved has never been easier.
"People interested in volunteering can visit okc.redcross.org and click on volunteer. From there they'll go through our new Volunteer Connection system, where they go through an online orientation and can register to volunteer," he said.
Garcia went on to say the site allows newly registered volunteers to view a list of volunteer opportunities in their area.
"It really puts the volunteer experience in the hands of the volunteer," he said. "They can choose when they want to volunteer, as well as pick through a list of the different volunteer opportunities."
Volunteers can also tailor their volunteering based on their skills and interests, wether those be media skills, public relation skills, first aid skills, whatever interests the volunteer, Garcia said.
"Once they're registered they're put into groups based on skills and interests where they'll be updated on various training opportunities and upcoming events," he said.
He explained the site also allows them to update their profile based on their volunteer service.
"They're are able to upload pictures or short stories they either hear or experience from volunteering. I like to think of it as almost a social media website for volunteers," Garcia said. "My profile contains all my volunteer deployments, the different classes I've taken, you can even e-mail and keep in contact with fellow volunteers."
With the approach of the severe weather season this Spring, Garcia said the Red Cross will need volunteers for numerous jobs including shelter volunteers, volunteers to distribute supplies, mental health workers, disaster recruiting and opportunities in fund raising, and more.
"We welcome all volunteers," he said. "One huge need we have is for bilingual volunteers, specifically Spanish speakers. We want everyone to know the Red Cross is here for them."
When asked why people should make the effort to volunteer, Garcia said, "You never truly understand how important it is until you're out on your first disaster and you meet a mother of 2 whose home has been destroyed, and you get that hug for the relief you've provided. That's when you know what you're volunteering for. It gets you involved in your community, and you get the feeling of knowing you've made a difference."