With all of the fires occurring in California this summer, as well as in the Pacific Northwest, the Red Cross is a name we frequently see in the news consistently providing help to those in their time of greatest need.
As you may know, the Central Valley is home to its own very active Red Cross chapter. I wanted to take some time to learn more about what its staff and volunteers are doing to help others, plus find out how we, as fellow Valley residents, can be of assistance to their work. I spoke with Taylor Poisall, Volunteer Recruitment Specialist at the American Red Cross Central Valley, to learn more.
FresYes: Can you tell me a bit about your position with the local Red Cross, and what drew you to the work?
Taylor Poisall: I am the Volunteer Recruitment Specialist, which means I have the incredible opportunity to speak with our community members about how they can volunteer with the Red Cross throughout the Central Valley. I originally started as a volunteer during my senior year of college, and thankfully found a role in the Red Cross.
Working with volunteers is a truly enjoyable experience, and they continue to inspire me. It is incredible work that our volunteers do, whether it be helping communities prepare for emergencies, assisting people affected by disasters, connecting families or simply lending a helping hand to members of the community. Every day is different and exciting and our volunteers make it very enjoyable.
FY: What type of work is our local Red Cross most involved in?
TP: Our Disaster Services team is extremely busy in the Central Valley. Our Disaster Action Team responds to almost one home fire a day to support victims of household fires. To combat this, the Red Cross has a “Sound the Alarm” campaign where volunteers and partners canvass high-risk neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms, and help families create escape plans. Residents looking to take part in our free smoke alarm program can call our chapter office and make an appointment to have free smoke alarms installed.
Our Service to Armed Forces volunteers work with the VA Hospital to provide support to veterans and participate in Reconnection Workshops with active duty members and their families.
Lastly, we are always training for ongoing disaster seasons. We deployed trained disaster volunteers to several wildfire responses this summer, and we are preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.
FY: Are there elements of the work our local Red Cross does that you were surprised to learn of, that you didn’t know about prior to your work with the organization?
TP: Before I started, I knew that Red Cross taught Health and Safety classes and that they were there in big disasters I saw on the news.
After working with the Red Cross for three years, I am constantly encouraged by what our volunteers can do. Almost every day in Fresno County, Disaster Action Team members are waking up in the middle of the night to go support victims of home fires. Nationwide, Red Cross volunteers respond to over 64,000 natural disasters a year, and most of them are home fires.
FY: What are the greatest needs currently for the Central Valley Red Cross, and how can Fresnans help?
TP: Volunteer at the American Red Cross of Central California to make an impact today! People can volunteer at our office working on administrative projects big and small, teach education classes to prepared students and community groups, train to be on a disaster team, work with our VA and other veteran groups—the list goes on.
You can also help people affected by disasters big and small, like wildfires and countless other crises, by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters. Click, call, or text to give: visit redcross.org, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
FY: I know there are events coming up that support the Red Cross. Tell me what’s ahead on the calendar.
TP: Local Red Cross of Central Valley volunteers are excited to support A Taste of River Park 2018, a volunteer favorite. You can join us on Sept. 8 from 6-10 p.m. for a 21+ event in the River Park shopping center. This 9th annual event consists of food, wine, fashion, and lots of fun. Located throughout the event will also be two bars, various vendors, wine sampling, and of course food tasting! Guests will receive one taste from each winery and restaurant. The American Red Cross Central Valley is the proud beneficiary of this year’s event. A portion of the proceeds will support disaster relief. To purchase tickets, you can visit atasteofriverpark.com.
Additionally, you can join us this fall as the American Red Cross of Central California introduces Shelter of Hope, a major regional fundraising campaign to raise funds and awareness to support disaster relief by simulating the experience of staying in a Red Cross shelter. The Shelter of Hope will be in Fresno on Oct. 19 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at River Park. There will be plenty of events for the entire family. For more information, visit redcross.org/hope.
FY: Anything else you’d like FresYes readers to know??
Whether it’s a wildfire, a call for help after a devastating home fire, a call from a service member or military family in need, the Red Cross is there. All Red Cross assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money. The Red Cross delivers help to whoever needs it regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people who have disaster-caused needs do not need to be American citizens to access Red Cross services.