st. CLAIRSVILLE — The American Red Cross is seeking help to help those in need.
The Belmont County Board of Commissioners officially recognized American Red Cross Month on Wednesday. Sharon Kesselring, executive director of the American Red Cross in Belmont County, attended the board meeting and said American Red Cross Month was an opportunity to celebrate the work of volunteers and to raise awareness of the need for blood donations.
“The Belmont County Commissioner has been gracious in recognizing American Red Cross Month,” he says.
He reviewed his organization’s activities in 2022, including emergency response, education and preparedness, and training services for activities such as CPR and first aid.
Kesselring said the Red Cross relies on volunteers to respond to emergencies.
“One number that’s coming in slightly less than I’d like to see right now is the number of volunteers we have in Belmont County, especially volunteers for our local disaster action team,” he said, describing them as people willing to take training and respond to disasters such as fires, floods and hurricanes.
“We have a few volunteers who have signed up with the blood service, but not many volunteers who have signed up with the disaster services, so I will definitely be applying for additional volunteers,” Kesselring said.
For members of the Disaster Action Team, people who register as volunteers will undergo background checks paid for by the Red Cross.
“We immediately got them to talk to the supervisor of that department, who explained what type of training we would be doing for them. The training is virtual, everything is online, so they can do it any time. And after they complete the online training, we ask them to go on a trip together with our current disaster volunteers so they can get a feel for what we do and how we respond,” he says.
“We respond 24/7, so a volunteer should take that into account when they are willing to become a member of a disaster action team. We’re asking people to sign up for a week, so maybe you’ll do a week for March, a week for April, a week for May,” Kesselring said.
“Volunteering is very important to us, and ensuring a volunteer not only has an experience that suits us but also a fulfilling experience that matches their needs is very important. We train them, and once they understand what they’re doing, we release them to become members of our disaster action team.” he says.
“They will be meeting with clients, quite frequently at the location of, for example, a house fire,” he says, adding volunteers also see clients afterward at less stressful times. Volunteers also work in teams with partners.
“When they determine their emergency needs, they immediately offer comfort and their emergency needs may include a need for shelter, a need for clothing, a need for food,” he says. “Once we determine what their immediate emergency needs are, we can provide direct financial assistance to that client.”
Kesselring said other volunteers were then able to help with recovery. This is usually done virtually, with volunteers following up on clients and possibly referring them to other agencies.
Volunteers help clients understand “that they can rise from the destruction they have experienced,” he says.
Regarding the blood supply, he said it needs to be O positive, the most common blood type that can be given to anyone with a positive blood type, and O negative, which “universal” blood type that can be given to anyone.
“We are not in a critical condition right now, but we are definitely not at stable levels of the two particular blood types.” he says. “We would like to see more activity at our blood drives, but especially people who have O positive and O negative blood types, to have them register and give blood locally.”
Kesselring said volunteers often work at blood drives.
“They can work on various bloodmobiles in the area, and it is their choice,” he says. “There is quite a bit of training involved. Nothing particularly complicated. They choose their date and time. Even helping work on one blood drive every month would be a big help for us.”
To learn more, donate or volunteer, people can visit redcross.org or call 304-488-5279.