The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

January 3, 2013

Volunteerism touches many

ARC Corner

By Audrey Williams

— Thinking back as we begin a new year...

As a member of the American Red Cross through the AmeriCorps VISTA Program, I am a part of a team effort to provide help and education to our local communities. We reach out to people in our communities in various situations — including local disasters such as winter storms and home fires. That help is provided in various ways — helping find emergency lodging, providing other resource contacts, providing comfort kits, Red Cross shelters, and more, depending on the need. I also help provide Emergency Preparedness and Safety Education to my community.

I live in Nicholas County. It is an honor and a privilege to help, being a part of making a difference in my community through the American Red Cross. Sometimes this helping touches me in a personal way — helping someone I know personally. Such is the case in October of this year during the superstorm Sandy that came through our area. I was able to be a part of the Red Cross teams that helped the people I knew.

For example: I delivered comfort kits, other items, and gave encouraging words of support to friends of mine who live in Nicholas County who lost their home and all their belongings to a fire during that storm.  Because of the blocked and extremely dangerous road conditions, the fire department could not get to their home — even though they live approximately five to 10 minutes from the fire department.

The fire was not caused by anything my friends did or did not do. It happened because someone on their power grid improperly used a generator. This improper use caused a back surge though the power grid to my friend’s house, which caught the electrical system on fire, which caught the entire house on fire. My friend’s devastating home fire, and others just like it, is one of the reasons I teach and encourage people in our communities to read and follow safety directions when using alternate power and heating sources.

Another example: I helped at the Red Cross shelter that was set up at the Summersville Baptist Church — delivered comfort kit items and other necessities to the shelter, provided emergency preparedness and safety info, helped in the kitchen, and did anything else that needed to be done. But, most important, I tried to be a support and encourager to those who were there — a hug, a smile, a listening ear, a help with their children to give Mom and Dad a break, and thanking the Red Cross volunteers from North Carolina who ran the shelter.

Yet another example: As a Red Cross volunteer, I helped at the community shelter at the Summersville Senior Citizens building — I took my turn at cleaning part of the facility. I also tried to be a support and encourager to those who were there — the community members, some I knew, who were staying there because they could not stay in their home and our senior citizens who were cooking the food and manning the community shelter.

All of the above is just a sample of what the American Red Cross is all about: Teaching, helping, and encouraging. I am glad and proud to be a part of the American Red Cross team.

You can be a part of that team, too. It is called volunteering. Contact me by e-mail at Audrey.Williams@redcross.org.

(Williams is volunteer coordinator for the Fayette-Nicholas Chapter of the American Red Cross, as well as Raleigh, Summers, and Wyoming counties.)