Red Cross needs volunteers as hectic hurricane season and COVID-19 run resources thin

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As Texans along the Gulf Coast recover from days of rain and flooding from what was Tropical Storm Beta, a busy hurricane season mixed with the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted a need for Red Cross volunteers.

Volunteer responsibilities range from blood donations to virtual support such as intake interviews or client referrals.

Other opportunities include joining teams responsible for opening emergency shelters for people displaced by disasters. Licensed health care professionals are also sought after by the organization.

“The COVID crisis has made it difficult for us to bring volunteers from other parts of the country,” said Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast Region spokesperson Marco Bracamontes.

“We’ve had too many storms, too many disasters,” Bracamontes said. “People are deployed in our regions, so it adds up to the difficulty in getting local volunteers.”

These efforts benefit people like Patrick Kohler, who evacuated from Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Laura almost a month ago. His community of Lake Charles was decimated by powerful wind, rain and flooding.

“Hurricane Laura came in real bad,” Kohler said.

Emergency management officials in Texas arranged temporary shelter in Austin for Kohler, his sister and mother.

Now, Kohler is working on finding a place to buy or rent near where his damaged Lake Charles home is, so he can return to his neighborhood.

Kohler said the Red Cross has checked in on him every day: to check on his health and help fill any prescriptions he and his family need. Volunteers have helped him with state and federal paperwork regarding the storm damage.

“It’s just nice to know that there are people out there who are willing to fight for you,” he said.

“You’d want someone to be there, right?” Kohler asked rhetorically. “If something bad happened, you’d want someone to be there to lend a hand help out.”

Tropical Storm Beta dumped more than a foot of water in parts of southwest Houston. Hurricane Hanna caused flash-flooding and tore down power lines and trees in July, leaving thousands of Texans without power.

Bracamontes, a Texas Gulf Coast resident for 25 years, was inspired to join the Red Cross after Hurricane Harvey’s $125 billion destruction in 2017.

“There were so many people affected by that disaster that I felt the call,” he said.

The Red Cross has posted volunteer opportunities on its website.

People who want to help — in-person or virtually — will be required to pass a background check, complete a national training and a local orientation.

“It’s just good to help people,” Kohler said. “And that’s what we need, is people willing to go out and do good.”

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