Strand Notebook | Red Cross looking for volunteers

The Coastal South Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross is looking for volunteers to help in numerous ways.

If you would like to help prevent or alleviate human suffering, volunteering for the Red Cross is a perfect way to do that.

“There’s a lot of need here. If you think of anything you could possibly do, we do it here at the Red Cross,” said Nanci Conley, executive director of the local chapter, which serves Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.

Volunteers make up 96 percent of the Red Cross workforce and are involved in every aspect of its mission.

The mission, first and foremost, is to assist military personnel and their families. “We work with an average of one family a day,” Conley said.

Anywhere there are American troops, Red Cross volunteers are also there, and all emergency messages go through that agency.

The Red Cross is always working toward helping people prevent, prepare and respond to disasters, and its volunteers respond to disasters locally and around the world.

Disasters come in “all forms and shapes,” Conley said.

Over 500 people in Horry, WIlliamsburg and Georgetown counties lost their homes to fire since July 1, 2013, and local volunteers stepped up to help every one of them.

Hurricane season began this month, and the chapter is seeking volunteers to help staff the shelters if opening them is necessary.

Unlike fires, hurricanes don’t come as a shock.

“The good thing about hurricanes is, you get plenty of warning,” Conley said.

If a damaging hurricane hits the area, volunteers may have to staff the shelters for at least 72 hours because that’s about how long it takes to get through the storm and for outside help to arrive.

If you’d like to volunteer, you must also be prepared.

The Red Cross needs trained volunteers. That training is provided. If groups such as homeowners’ associations or churches are interested in volunteering, they will bring the training to you.

The first step in volunteering is to attend volunteer orientation, where you can learn about the many opportunities and choose what kind of work you want to do.

That work may be something that you had not realized was needed, such as computer work, working the front desk in the office, driving trucks, presenting preparedness training or being the walking coach for the Red Cross Rescue Racers.

And you never know where a volunteer’s ideas can lead or how many hearts will be lifted.

Janice Ash Sialiano of Surfside Beach has been a local Red Cross volunteer for 30 years. She was one of several volunteers who were recently honored at the chapter’s annual banquet.

Sialiano started and headed the Red Cross Christmas Dinner in 1989, the year that Hurricane Hugo hit the Grand Strand, and has been heading it since then.

She said they had the first dinner with snow on the ground and served 50 people. In 2013, they served about 6,500 people.

To help others in the many ways that it does, the Red Cross needs donations of time, money and blood.

For more information, call the local Red Cross at 477-0020 or visitredcross.org/sc/myrtle-beach.