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Number of Red Cross volunteers dwindling

December 27, 2010

The number of volunteers for the American Red Cross in Elk and Cameron counties is decreasing, yet the need is greater than ever.

The need for volunteers has become even more imperative for the Elk-Cameron Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross, according to Bob Newell, executive director of the Elk-Cameron Counties Chapter.
"Volunteerism is dying. People don't volunteer like they used to. We will be relying more on volunteers to fulfill the mission of the Red Cross," Newell said.
He emphasized that Red Cross employees are responding to more service calls and undertaking more volunteer duties, in addition to their regularly assigned duties, and attributed this to the lack of volunteers over the past few years within the organization.
Newell said several volunteers from the DuBois and Clearfield area helped respond to the recent flooding in Ridgway. 
"Ideally the best way for us to operate is to have a group of volunteers in all towns so we can react to those disasters," Newell said. 
Patti Micale, Elk-Cameron Chapter program specialist, said local volunteers know their community, the people and any back roads or routes which can be utilized when main roads are inaccessible.
Micale explained the number of Red Cross volunteers has been falling drastically in recent years: In 2005, there were at least 300 local volunteers. Currently, there are approximately 123 active volunteers for all Red Cross services.
The lack of volunteers has become a national problem as well. 
Newell noted that older seniors have extra time to volunteer, whereas many younger people are busy tending to their families.
He added that many residents took advantage of the Disney's Give A Day, Get A Day program in 2010, where people could earn a free day at a Disney theme park in exchange for their volunteer efforts.
"We are trying to find ways to entice people," Newell said. "The Red Cross offers what other organizations do not, tangible things to take away."
Newell cited the organization's offerings of free training for local, regional, national and international disasters, mass care, disaster assessment and opportunities for teamwork and leadership, which helps enhance resumes.
Upon completion of disaster training, volunteers agree to travel to any national disaster for a three-week period. 
For more on this story, see the Dec. 28 edition of The Daily Press.

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