Volunteers will be needed to pick up the tasks of nine AmeriCorps Members as of July 31. There have been two AmeriCorps Members in Joplin, two in West Plains, four in Springfield and one in Lebanon. They will be leaving as a federal grant administered by the Missouri State Service Committee has not been renewed. Among those leaving are Jenny Solomon and Mindy Boggs of the headquarters staff in Springfield.
Jenny is a Recruitment and Presence Specialist and has been with Red Cross for three years and AmeriCorps for a year. Among other tasks, she is a case manager and will survey for client satisfaction. Jenny is involved with the Client Assistance System providing financial help to Red Cross clients in the Ozarks and training the volunteer caseworkers.
“I found a job that makes a difference” in volunteering and serving at Red Cross, Jenny says. “It was what I was looking for.”
A case of particular importance to her was that of Laramie Smith, 5, of Mansfield. Laramie was badly hurt in a house fire in November. Jenny participated through Red Cross efforts in assisting the family with food and clothing, coordinating with the Red Cross in Cincinnati, Ohio where Laramie went for burn treatment and helping the family as the case was kept open longer than usual. Jenny was 4-years-old when she was hurt in a fire in which she lost two brothers and an aunt.
Mindy sees her job with AmeriCorps as “mobilizing volunteers” as a Volunteer Engagement Specialist. She joined Red Cross in July, 2012 and became an AmeriCorps Member the following August.
Initially, Mindy was doing casework and she “loved it.” She developed a “Red Cross disaster response family” during five deployments following Super Storm Sandy and then expanded that family during the Colorado flooding response.
“It comes over and over again – that wonderful feeling of helping others during this time of disasters in their lives,” Mindy says.
Giving volunteers an opportunity to share that wonderful feeling comes from her job with AmeriCorps in assisting them to find the area in which they would like to volunteer. A person wanting to help actively in the community might chose to a member of the Disaster Assistance Team for example. Mindy also matches up the trained volunteers with the requested staff following a national disaster.
Mindy will be continuing with some of her Red Cross work as a volunteer, but many jobs will need volunteers, new or existing, to step up. Some of these are very predictable in the days and hours such as front desk reception, administrative assistant duties, Volunteer Connection database entry or to do Red Cross presentations or handle “Pluggy” the robot. Of course, there will also continue to be the need for volunteers who can be on call to respond following local house fires or a disaster across the country, but any volunteer can say, “No.”
The AmeriCorps Members have provided about 300 hours a week to Red Cross across the chapter’s 29 counties.
And as Terra Jeffries, a staff Disaster Program Specialist, points out: “AmeriCorps has been a key support partner for the Red Cross for numerous years. We will miss their commitment to educating, preparing and assisting the community.”
–Don Underwood, Public Affairs volunteer