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October 16, 2017 – Please consider joining us (local western Nevada County folks) as a volunteer with the American Red Cross (ARC). We need you! The application to become a volunteer is mostly on-line and, regardless of where you live, can be found at: http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer#step1

This year we have set up and worked shelters for the Oroville Dam scare (moderate sized shelter for us, 800 registered), the Pleasant Fire (very tiny, 12) and the recent McCourtney and Lobo Fires (196, small, but). The “but”? – We ran only the 1st Baptist shelter – we did not have enough volunteers, adequately trained and available, to set up or work the shelter at Twin Cities Church (small) which was run by the county. All the evacuees in one location would still be a small operation, but in two places twice as many people are needed. The county also provided staff for at 1st Baptist and the other 2017 shelters.

Prior to 2017, no one is aware of any shelter need locally other than “tiny” all the way back to the 1997 floods in the valley (large). The bottom line is that when we must have a shelter, we need more volunteers than we have, trained and available! Without background checks (free as part of the application), walk-in volunteers are so limited in what they can do that we usually decline their help.

This year, we have also assisted ~15 local families that have lost an individual home to fire, a tree through the roof, or a mud slide. We respond when called, usually by one of fire departments.

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In between disasters, we are preparing for the next one or participating in one of ARC’s education or prevention programs. Examples: over the past couple of years we have installed several hundred smoke alarms and provided information to homeowners in three mobile home parks; we have a program to teach preparedness to 3rd – 5th graders in classrooms.

Volunteers choose when, where, and what they do. Volunteers with young children or full time jobs may find it difficult to participate fully unless they have flexible caretakers or bosses. Smoke alarm canvassing and community events are usually on weekends; disaster response whenever it happens but shelters are 24/7 and individual can be during the evening or night; some preparation for the next disaster can be squeezed into small windows of time throughout the week. There are also services provided by telephone: casework for both disaster response and Service to Armed Forces, as well as consulting by licensed registered nurses and mental health professionals.

If you have ever considered helping friends, neighbors, and others in our community when they need you the most, please join us.