Helping families recover from home fires is a major focus of the Eastern S.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross; having trained volunteers is critical. That’s why the current annual Heroes Campaign is about attracting volunteers, as well as raising money.
The campaign kicked off in February with a goal of adopting 208 families. That translates to a total of $265,200, based on the average response and recovery cost of $1,275. The assistance includes temporary lodging, food, clothing, medical needs and so forth associated with getting families back to their pre-disaster condition.
“Just yesterday, a family of six in Myrtle Beach lost everything in a fire,” chapter executive director Nanci Conley said.
As of Tuesday, the current Heroes campaign had adopted 178 families.
The chapter covers Horry County and five other S.C. counties. Georgetown County is in the Lowcountry Chapter. In the Eastern S.C. Chapter area, 830 individuals have been affected by home fires in the nine months of the current fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2016). The number is up from over 700 at this time a year ago.
Television weatherman Ed Piotrowski is chairing the Heroes campaign for the 10th time. April is Restaurant Month and Mike Arakas is again leading that effort. Conley says 10 Grand Strand restaurants are signed up for the month, with Pizza Hut stores participating over the entire six-county chapter area, including Marion, Marlboro, Florence, Darlington and Dillon.
“Volunteers are critical to serving our clients,” Conley said. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” and there are many areas of service. “The training depends on what you choose to do. The Red Cross is very dimensional.”
Background checks are done, and all volunteers receive orientation. Hurricane shelter volunteers receive six to eight hours of training. The chapter needs volunteers in areas such as administrative work, fund-raising and public affairs, to name a few.
The number of volunteers across the chapter is up to almost 600; the chapter report for 2016 showed a total of 540. During Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, the shortage of Red Cross volunteers forced early closing of several shelters, Horry County Emergency Management officials have said. Hurricane shelters opened in many Horry County School buildings and HCS provides food service and custodial personnel. During Matthew, HCS personnel, food and supplies cost $78,195.06, reimbursed by the area Red Cross.
In five states, American Red Cross costs for Hurricane Matthew totaled $22.4 million. The Red Cross raised $17.7 million specifically designated for Matthew. The difference was covered by donations to various chapter relief funds.
The hurricane drew in some “event-based volunteers. They came out for Matthew, and have since been trained,” Conley said.
More area disaster team members reduce the number of trained volunteers brought in from other Red Cross chapters.
“Volunteers are the crux of the chapters,” Conley said.
Eastern S.C. Chapter contact information
Contact the Eastern S.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross about becoming a volunteer, participating in the annual Heroes Campaign, including Restaurant Month in April, or for more information.
The chapter is headquartered at 3531 Pampas Drive, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577