Red Cross staff and volunteers in Thompson held a free barbecue at MacLean Park June 11 to raise awareness about the organization locally and hopefully inspire more people to join their team.
“Right now actively we have about 22 volunteers,” said Jessie Horodecki, the Red Cross’s emergency management co-ordinator for the northeast section of Manitoba and the only employee of the organization in Thompson. “We have a personal disaster team and an emergency response team. Our PDA team – personal disaster – has 17 volunteers in total and then the leftover are for emergency response so we definitely need more volunteers for that.”
The goal is to recruit 35 more volunteers in Thompson by the end of the year, she said.
Emergency response team members help out when people are evacuated from a community to Thompson due to a forest fire, for example. The team assists the evacuation and help pout with evacuees while they wait to go home, which may just mean providing a little entertainment.
“In 2017, evacuees we took out to Pisew Falls for the day for a picnic,” said Horodecki. “Last year we had [evacuees from] Marcel Colomb [Cree Nation] and we did a movie night. All those different activities we need volunteers for.”
The personal disaster assistance team helps out people who have suffered incidents like having their home catch fire.
“They can call the Canadian Red Cross [at 1-888-800-6493] and we would meet with them and then we can provide up to 72 hours’ worth of assistance, so that would include lodging, food and clothing,” Horodecki says.
Thompson Red Cross volunteer June MacTavish has helped out with both small-scale and large-scale disasters.
“We’ve had a few house fires here that we’ve had to look after the people and I’ve been volunteering in Winnipeg a couple of different times for forest fires,” she said.
Anyone who wants to volunteer for the Red Cross must be at least 18 years of age and can sign up by going to www.redcross.ca and scrolling down to the volunteer link at the bottom of the page, by calling 204-982-7634 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apart from helping out with emergency responses and personal disaster assistance, Thompson’s Red Cross volunteers also give back to local organizations.
“Jamming for Jackets, we helped out with that,” says Horodecki. “We helped out serving with the community Christmas dinner, cake and coffee at the nursing homes, walking the dogs at the humane society. We did a day where we picked up a whole bunch of garbage around town.”
Community events involving the Red Cross are a great way for Horodecki’s family to spend time together, she says.
“With the Red Cross we are able to have our kids … come out and help out with the community events,” she says. “They come out during response too to hang out with kids that have been evacuated to Thompson so it’s really a family thing for us and it helps teach the kids that giving back is amazing.”
For MacTavish, volunteering is a way to keep herself active and involved in the community.
“I like to help out,” she says. “I’m retired. What else have I got to do?”
“A special thanks to Jerry from the I Scream Shack for volunteering his time and helping out with the cooking and to Arctic Beverages for donating all the pop, the chips, the water,” said Horodecki. “With amazing companies like this, it really helps us to be a success when we’re out here trying to promote the Red Cross.”