Red Cross issues urgent call for volunteers

Dec. 28, 2013 @ 04:51 PM

American Red Cross officials are calling on Durham residents to volunteer and donate to the nonprofit in the wake of fires that have strained its budget.

A central mission of the Red Cross is to respond with help to families who have been burned out of their homes.

Regardless of the hour, the Red Cross sends a team to a fire scene when emergency housing is needed.

“It is rewarding work,” said Lu Esposito, regional communications officer for the Red Cross. “The teams arrive and talk with the family. They try to provide them with emotional support and the feeling that they’re going to be OK and that we’re there to support them. We help them through their recovery.”

The Red Cross provides fire victims short-term housing, food and clothing. If there’s a baby in the family, diapers and formula are supplied.

“We provide financial help so that they’re empowered and doing those things for themselves that make them feel like they’re in control,” she said. “And we’ll help them with move-in costs.”

Esposito said the goal is achieving victims’ full recovery.

“From the start, it’s immediate, emergency housing, which usually means a hotel room,” she said. “We also help them with an apartment, and make sure they have their security deposit and first month’s rent.”

She said volunteer work is hard, but worth the effort. “It’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done – to drive up to a fire as a Red Cross volunteer, see a family that’s pretty much lost everything and know that you’re their lifeline to the future.”

Esposito said volunteers are needed throughout the state, but especially in Durham.

“We know that the people of Durham County are just like the people of Wake and Johnston,” she said. “They have huge hearts, and want to help.”  

Information on how to volunteer and donate is available at Redcross.org/Durham, or call 919-489-6541.