Carl Witten, a Red Cross volunteer since 2005, came to the Red Cross Institute in Nashville, N.C. as an information technology specialist who has experience hooking up satellite connections for phone and internet. But he was at the institute to learn something new – he is transitioning from volunteering in IT to serving spiritual needs. And the institute, which was held March 1-3 at Nash County Community College, provided the classes for him.
The Red Cross Institute is designed to provide a wide range of instruction, serving volunteers who are just starting out, as well as those with years of experience. The classes, of course, were free for volunteers.
“People can get classes that are not often offered at the chapter level,” said Micheal Francis, a disaster volunteer and organizer of this year’s institute. “For new volunteers, this is an opportunity to work on a track, get key classes needed to advance from a trainee.”
On offer this past weekend were entire tracks, or groups of courses, such as the Disaster Spiritual Care Track and Volunteer Services Track. Or volunteers could choose individual classes such as disaster deployment fundamentals.
A new offering this year was the Service to the Armed Forces Track – including an introductory set of six courses that could be taken together or as standalones. The track helps prepare volunteers to serve the nation’s military members, their families and veterans.
About 320 volunteers were in attendance, said David Garrison, senior disaster manager. “You can get all your basic classes in one weekend,” he said, adding that it’s a good opportunity for team-building.
It was also a chance for volunteers throughout the Eastern North Carolina Region to get together and meet new colleagues or to renew old connections.
“It’s good to network, see people you don’t usually see,” said Glenn Butler, of the Sandhills Chapter. He was at the institute to learn about mass casualty events and government operations. “They’re hard-to-find specialty courses.”
Shon Niles, also from the Sandhills Chapter, was there to learn about deployment fundamentals. She also planned to take an emergency response vehicle training course. Niles currently volunteers in her chapter for the Pillowcase Project, a program that aims to prepare children for emergencies, and there were courses at the institute for that, too.
Douglas Banks, a nurse, has been an event-based volunteer since last year and was looking to study logistics and government operations fundamentals to expand his volunteering options. “I wanted to know a lot of things so I could go into managing a shelter if I wanted,” he said.
In addition to courses, the institute provided a career fair for volunteers who want to learn more about how their skills could fit best with Red Cross needs.
Wendy Flynn, regional volunteer services manager, noted that the Red Cross of Eastern North Carolina has 1,000 volunteer postings available, including many roles that new volunteers might not expect. One important need, she said, was in human resources. “We’re recruiting across all service lines, not just disaster response,” she said.
Steve and Jeannie Lowell of Apex said they are in training mode, doing disaster action team training, and focusing on the Government Operations Track. “There are so many things to do – I’m overwhelmed,” Jeannie said.
By volunteering with the Red Cross, they hope to pass along their passion for helping others to their children, Steve said. “It’s a good environment, everyone working toward a common goal.”
To view photos from the Red Cross Institute, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/triangleredcross/albums/72157676996282887
To view videos from the event, visit http://www.facebook.com/redcrossenc.
Story by Michael White / American Red Cross