Volunteer classes set for next month

Published 10:39 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

It takes a special kind of person to be willing to get out of bed in the middle of the night and go help someone they don’t know.

The American Red Cross Suffolk chapter is looking for those people to serve on the organization’s Disaster Action Team. The team assists families that have disasters after normal business hours, and also is called on to volunteer during large-scale disasters.

“These are the people that actually go out in the middle of the night to assist those families,” said Faye Byrum, executive director of the American Red Cross Suffolk chapter. “These are the groups of volunteers that go out and make sure the family has a place to stay, has food and has clothing.”

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A group of training classes required to become a Disaster Action Team member is coming up in April. The classes include all-day sessions on April 2 and 9 and an evening session on April 14.

“It’s probably the most rewarding job that they’ll never get paid for,” Byrum said. “You have a real rewarding feeling when you come home from doing something like this, knowing that you’ve helped somebody that truly was in need.”

The team most often responds to house fires, because that’s the most common disaster in Suffolk, Byrum said. Other disasters could include a caved-in roof, flooding or an area that needs to be evacuated for some reason.

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and be willing to make a commitment to respond when they’re on call. They also must complete the required training, which is free of charge; have a valid driver’s license; and successfully complete a background check.

Team members are on call for a week at a time, and only need to respond to incidents outside of normal business hours. Sometimes, weeks go by without a call, Byrum said, but other weeks have a lot of incidents.

Byrum said the volunteers enjoy doing the work because they are helping people. She recounted one volunteer who called her the morning after working his first fire.

“’I came home with the best feeling inside knowing that I had helped someone that really, truly needed my help,’” Byrum recalled the man saying.

“It’s just a rewarding feeling for most of our volunteers,” she added. “It’s a special kind of person that wants to do it.”

For more information, call the Red Cross at 539-6645 or visit www.suffolkredcross.org.