09/11/05 — Red Cross training draws a crowd

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Red Cross training draws a crowd

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on September 11, 2005 2:05 AM

Ernest Triplett knows firsthand what it is like to see your home covered by flood waters.

So, when he saw the suffering and the sorrow on the faces of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, he just couldn't sit there and do nothing.

On Saturday, Triplett, himself a victim of Hurricane Floyd, joined about 50 other Wayne County residents at the Red Cross building on George Street to go through disaster volunteer training.

The instruction and certification will allow them to head to the Gulf Coast to become part of the massive emergency response effort there.

"The flood in '99 had a lot to do with it," Triplett said during a break in the training. "I couldn't forget that Red Cross truck coming up and helping me out. I wanted to give back something."

The Rev. Tino Bell of Mt. Zion Church also spent the day training.

He said after talking to his wife, he decided sitting home and praying for the hurricane victims was not enough.

He had to do more.

"It just grieved me," Bell said. "I wanted to do something myself."

Trainees got just the preliminaries of preparation Saturday, said Durwood Bostic of the Wayne County Red Cross's disaster action team.

An instructional video explained the way volunteers are incorporated into the relief effort, and how their skills are matched with the needs of the particular area into which they will be going.

The hands-on training will come when they arrive at the national staging center in Montgomery, Ala. After Saturday's session and a background check, the trainees will be ready to join the thousands of other volunteers who make up the backbone of the Red Cross effort.

"Every operation is unique," Bostic said. "They'll get the basic procedures to go by so that they'll have some idea of what they'll be doing when they get there."

The national Red Cross has been asked to come up with 40,000 volunteers to help in the wake of Katrina, said Chuck Waller, Wayne County chapter director. The Wayne unit will hold another training session on Sept. 24 and as many more as are needed to accommodate the number of people volunteering, Waller said.

After Saturday, the volunteers will be on-call, said Teresa Williams, chapter emergency services director. Some could be called up within a day or two. Those who decide to go to the Gulf states will be expected to make a three-week commitment.

Others going through the training are not planning on making the trip, but will stay in Wayne County to help coordinate efforts here, and to become part of the local chapter's preparedness team. With another hurricane hovering off the East Coast, they could be needed here soon, Williams said.

Julie Ellison said she doesn't plan to make the trip to the Gulf Coast but just wants to be part of the Red Cross team here. The company she works for, Mission Foods, has already contributed a shipment of items to be sent to the region but that wasn't enough to satisfy her need to help, she said.

"I just wanted to do something personally," Ellison said. "I felt like I needed to sacrifice."

Minnie Beverly is a retired U.S. Air Force nurse who served in Vietnam. She said she believes her experience could prove valuable as Katrina's victims try to recover from the devastation and suffering wrought by the storm.

"I just have a burning desire to be of some help," she said.

In addition to the training session at the Red Cross, three early-response training sessions were held Saturday at the Marion Edwards Recovery Center Initiatives (MERCI) in Rosewood.

MERCI is serving as the national headquarters for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

The volunteers are being trained to go out and help people at the places where Hurricane Katrina struck.

Over the next two to three months, it is estimated that hundreds of work teams will be sent, said volunteer coordinator Ann Huffman .

Training sessions filled quickly, and more will be added, she said. Upcoming classes will be announced on MERCI's Web site, www.merciumc.org.