Red Cross looks to increase Steamboat volunteer levels

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— Steamboat Springs resident and veteran American Red Cross volunteer Sarah Cherry recently returned from helping with the disaster relief operation in response to both tornadoes and flooding in Arkansas. This week she is encouraging Northwest Colorado residents to take part in training classes Friday and Saturday that will help them become a Red Cross volunteer.

The floods on the Yampa and Elk rivers haven’t resulted in injuries and widespread property damage, but they have increased awareness of the need for emergency preparedness.

“We really need to increase our volunteer levels here in Steamboat to respond to small disasters such as single-family fires and larger disasters like flooding and wildfires,” Cherry said. “There is also the option to go out on a national deployment and help. I was already involved in the Red Cross when I moved to Steamboat and had deployed nationally for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I think others in Steamboat might find national deployments to be a very fulfilling way to fill the mud seasons.”

The courses being offered this week are:

■ Disaster services: an overview. A basic course intended to teach participants how to help their community prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters.

■ Shelter simulation: A class providing the information and skills needed to work as a volunteer in a Red Cross shelter. The emergency scenarios range from a blizzard shelter for stranded travelers; an apartment fire or gas leak shelter and information center; or a shelter for evacuees during a major disaster.

■ Introduction to disaster action team: insights into the role of volunteers who serve as first responders for the Red Cross.

The classes are from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall. Those interested need to preregister by contacting Sarah Cherry at 401-855-3888 or cherry

sail@me.com, or Danielle Sullivan at 970-226-5728, ext. 228, or sullivand@centennialarc.org.

Cherry said she has taken great satisfaction from helping with disaster response around the country, and formed lasting friendships in the process. The role of Red Cross is to step into the breach when disasters first happen, she said.

“It is not just about what you can do nationally,” Cherry said. “Our community is great at helping those in need, but sometimes in the case of a disaster like a single-family fire here in Steamboat, they need that help immediately — even in the middle of the night. That is what we are here for. The Red Cross can come in and assist with immediate disaster needs to bridge the gap until the community organizations can help.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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