NIU students volunteer for Red Cross

By Thomas Verschelde

The American Red Cross in DeKalb has been busy responding to local and national disasters over the summer.

The American Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that helps people through four core services: disaster relief, armed forces and veteran services, health and safety programs, and blood collection.

According to Michelle Emmett, executive director of the DeKalb Chapter of the American Red Cross, nine people were deployed over the summer to national disasters.

Members of the Red Cross were deployed to tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, floods in Mississippi and North Dakota, and three people are currently in New York helping out with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Emmett said.

The people who respond to these disasters are members of the Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team (DAT).

“DAT is a group of dedicated volunteers who are interested in helping and responding to disasters,” Emmett said.

In the DeKalb chapter of the Red Cross there are 30 people who are a part of DAT.

Stephen Ludwig, NIU account technician and DAT member, went to Tuscaloosa, Ala. over the summer and worked in a shelter that provided up to 1200 people relief from the tornadoes and provided them with food.

“I joined DAT about two and a half years ago,” Ludwig said. “It gives me a chance to be able to give back. I remember when I had a flood and a house fire and the Red Cross was there for me.”

The three DAT members that are currently deployed in New York are George Greene, Paul McMenamin, and Nancy McMenamin.

Greene, a communications specialist, was deployed on Aug. 26 and is helping to restore communication functions in the area. Paul and Nancy McMenamin, emergency response vehicles operators, were deployed on Aug. 27 and are providing meals to thousands of hungry people. Each will be serving 21-day shifts.

DAT also helps with local disasters such as fires. Two teams of two people normally respond to local disasters. One team helps with the needs of the victims of the disaster and the other team hands out Gatorade and snacks to the emergency respondents.

Anyone can be a member of DAT, Emmett said.

“We have had students do this in the past but you have to be very committed,” Ludwig said. “Some students even transfer their membership to a new location after their graduation.”

In order for DAT members to respond to local disasters, they require 19 hours of training. Responding to national disasters like Hurricane Irene can require over 100 hours of training, Emmett said.

DAT is not the only way people can get involved with the Red Cross, there are a lot of volunteer positions available, Emmett said.

“The Red Cross is 96 percent volunteers,” Ludwig said. “We do this because we want to make sure that the money goes to help the people that actually need it.”

Those interested in volunteering at the DeKalb Chapter of the American Red Cross contact Volunteer Coordinator Laura Heylek at 815-756-7339.