Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Red Cross Recruits New Volunteers Through Virtual Open House

By Laura Cantagallo, American Red Cross Volunteer
With COVID-19 bringing an end to in-person meetings, the American Red Cross has adopted virtual communication platforms to recruit new volunteers for their five lines of services: Disaster, Blood Services, Training Services (health and safety), International, and Service to the Armed Forces (SAF). Red Cross volunteers make-up 90% of the Red Cross workforce and respond to more than 60,000 disasters a year – they are the backbone of this humanitarian organization.

The American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region conducted a virtual open house on Microsoft Teams on Tuesday, July 14, led by the Red Cross Volunteer Services recruitment team made up of Kristi Giles, Nanveet Prasad, and Sheleasa Omogbai – all who represent different parts of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware – and included several esteemed guest speakers. Prospective volunteers were given a virtual guided tour of the Red Cross and its history, principles and unique mission, and a look at the all-encompassing list of volunteer opportunities offered to those seeking a way to give back to their communities. 

Pictured clockwise from top:
Shawn Felder, Kristi Giles, and Sheleasa Omogbai 
Some of the volunteers the team is currently recruiting for include volunteers for Disaster Services, Blood Services, and Service to the Armed Forces.

Disaster volunteers can explore several roles: preparedness team members educate communities on self-reliance and personal resilience in the face of disaster, how to respond efficiently, and how to cope after the disaster has occurred. Recovery team members help those affected by disasters begin the road to recovery with initial assistance (food, clothing, shelter), casework, and identification of local, state, and even federal resources for which they may be eligible. 

Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Red Cross is committed to providing our nation with a safe and plentiful blood supply, putting blood services volunteers at the very core of the Red Cross operation, especially during this global health crisis. 

This unit is made up of over 25,000 volunteers and all blood is currently being tested for COVID-19 antibodies, and convalescent plasma products are also being collected and distributed treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Blood Services is looking for Blood Donor Screeners, Ambassadors, and Transportation Specialists at all of the nine blood donation centers in our region, including locations in Washington, D.C., Rockville, Lutherville, Frederick, and Baltimore, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia. You can see where they are all here.

There are even opportunities for younger volunteers! The event-based volunteer position for the Blood Donor Screener is open to those 15 and older who seek to contribute to a blood drive by temperature screening donors. Volunteers can sign up for 4-5 hour shifts anywhere across the region.

The American Red Cross was born on the battlefield. Our founder, Clara Barton, first delivered aid and comfort to Union soldiers during the Civil War. Today, the Red Cross continues this proud tradition through the SAF program that comprises several different volunteer opportunities to support those serving our country and their families. There are over 1,000 SAF volunteers spread throughout medical hospitals around the region, as well as volunteers at the Pentagon and Naval Academy. SAF caseworkers provide virtual assistance to help meet military family’s needs when someone is deployed, or when they are experiencing hardship. Caseworkers make initial contact to assess needs, follow up calls, and provide other services to make sure these families are receiving the essential aid they need. 

So, how has an almost completely hands-on volunteer program changed and adapted in 2020 due to the Coronavirus? 

“COVID doesn’t stop us, it only changes how we do it,”

- Shawn Felder, Red Cross Disaster Program Manager

The recruitment team touched on this in the meeting, explaining all the precautions and safety measures that are being taken to ensure the safety of the people we serve in the community and volunteers, all while still being able to give a hand and help those who desperately need Red Cross services. 

“Trainings are all virtual online; some are self-paced modules that you work through and complete,” says Kristi Giles, Senior Recruitment Specialist for the Central Maryland Chapter regarding how volunteers are given training for their duties. 

Red Cross relief also includes financial assistance and mental and spiritual health assistance, provided by volunteers virtually and by phone, done by our Disaster Action Team (DAT). Red Cross members have been reaching those affected by disaster via email, video, and text, practicing social distancing, encouraging touchless distribution of client assistance cards, and wearing masks and gloves.

Disaster Action Teams continue to serve disaster-affected communities and offer help around the clock to clients. 

Another virtual need the Red Cross is currently looking for is recruitment team members. This includes recruiting volunteers for our five lines of service and promoting volunteer opportunities on social media platforms – all virtually.

“We can’t do our job without the help of our volunteers;
they’re the most valuable part of our job.”

- Nanveet Prasad, Recruitment Specialist for the Red Cross 

Giles adds, “We hope that people feel that it’s a rewarding experience and we hope our volunteers understand the impact they’re making in people’s lives.”

If you’re ready to join us and become a Red Cross volunteer, an upcoming virtual open house is scheduled for August 20, 2020 from 10:00-11:00 AM on Microsoft Teams. 

Prospective volunteers can also apply online at and take a quiz to see what opportunities are available, and which would best fit their skill-set and hours of availability. 

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