Red Cross volunteer offers helping hand in times of need

He is no stranger to the aftermath of mass destruction caused by emergencies or disasters. But Garry Jacobs carries on with his 20-year stint as a volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross in Red Deer.

He is no stranger to the aftermath of mass destruction caused by emergencies or disasters.

But Garry Jacobs carries on with his 20-year stint as a volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross in Red Deer.

The retired 61-year-old lends a hand in situations ranging from individual house fires to earthquakes or floods that disrupt entire regions.

Following a disaster, Jacobs provides vital assistance in providing people with basic needs, including shelter, clothing, food, family reunification, first aid and support.

“I saw the good work that the Red Cross does with helping people in a time of need and I sort of carried on from that,” he said.

“I took the courses and the training required and ended up being an emergency responder.”

The 1994 earthquakes in California, along with the 1998 hurricane that ripped through in Puerto Rico, are among a long list of events Jacobs has responded to.

“I put my name in and thought, ‘California, it will never happen’ but about 30 hours later I was on an airplane headed south for a three-week assignment,” Jacobs said.

More recently, and closer to home, Jacobs was a part of the first team that went to Slave Lake in order to register people who couldn’t be evaluated, such as fire fighters, police officers and forestry officials. He spent six weeks in Slave Lake, registering 16,000 people with other volunteers.

“It is nice to give back to the community,” Jacobs said.

“People are in their most vulnerable state and we can give them some hope and get them going toward the road to recovery.”

Red Deer has 27 disaster management volunteer responders. Last week 12 people attended a recruitment information session at the Red Cross office at 5301 43rd Street. Two volunteers were accepted to be a part of the team.

Leigh Baker, Red Cross disaster management co-ordinator, said new volunteers will be trained to do what is called disaster management level one training in order to become a part of the Personal Disaster Assistance Team.

“After that they become responders they will carry a cell phone two weeks, three times a year,” Baker said.

“They respond to personal disasters and help anyone been evacuated from their home due to fire, flood or maybe a gas leak. My team provides 72 hours worth of shelter, food, clothes and assistance.”

While officials admit that the Red Cross isn’t for everyone, they also say there is personal satisfaction knowing a difference can be made in the worst moments of someone’s life.

“When it is two in the morning and you’re standing on the sidewalk looking at what used to be your house, it is nice to have someone come along and give you a little comfort,” Jacobs said.

Eighty per cent of the Canadian Red Cross is volunteer-driven.

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