Friday, September 16, 2005

How You Can Help?

About a week ago, I received an email from P., a former co-worker from the cactus. She was looking to see if anyone was intersted in going with her to volunteer at the Evacuee Center for victims of the hurricane from New Orleans. She had been over a couple times before, and had been visiting with people and taking home their laundry to wash. The center didn't initially have laundry facilities, and people didn't have transportation, or much money, to go to the laundromat. I decided that I would go with her on her next visit.

P. was not volunteering on an "official" level. The Evacuee Center was located at an old training facility for her company, and she simply decided to go over and see what she could do to help. When we arrived at the center, we were met by one of the staff, who informed us that they only wanted "official" volunteers at the center. P. told her that she was returning laundry and was there to visit with the people she had met, and well, within about 5 minutes we had volunteer passes.

By this point, laundry facilities had been set up, so there was no longer a need for us to pick up clothes to wash. So we went and met people and asked what we could do to help. Mostly people just wanted to talk. Many people had lost everything they had, and were separated from their families. The people I spoke with all planned to start over in Raleigh, and many people needed transportation to go look for apartments and jobs.

The two major volunteer organizations for the center are the Red Cross and Wake Human Services. I decided that in order to avoid the hassles of not being "official", I would call both organizations to sign up to volunteer.

In order to be a Red Cross volunteer, you must attend an orientation class (not a big deal). The classes are offered twice per month. When I contacted the Red Cross to sign up for the next open session I was informed that classes were full and the next available class would be sometime in Novmber. Wow. I had recently read in the news that the Red Cross was short on people and was looking for at least 40,000 new volunteers. I figured there would be at least some need in my area. I was surprised that they weren't offering extra orientions.

So be it. I decided that I would call Wake Human Services and offer to volunteer with them. When I called them I was informed that they had all of their needs met, and unless I could offer a special skill, they had no need for me. I explained to her that I had stopped by the Evacuee Center and that I noticed that people needed transportation around the area while they were trying to get settled. I might not have any special skills, but I do have a vehicle and would be more than happy to offer my services as a taxi for folks. She acted like this had not occurred to them. She said they would take my name, and if there was a need they would call.

It's been about a week since I called. I haven't heard anything from them. I do, however, work across the street from the Evacuee Center. Every day I see the residents walking up and down the median of the highway towards the gas station which is the only place within walking distance of the center. (And it's a hike) There is a little grassy area by the side of the road, and at any given time you will see a bunch of the evacuees sitting and talking. (You can tell who they are by their ID badges) Something tells me that the side of the highway isn't exactly where one wants to go to hang out and have a drink.

I wonder how many other people like me would be willing to grab some folks and show them around town, or at the very least, take them to the local watering hole for a much deserved drink, or even a meal that wasn't chosen for them? I wonder why the agencies running the center make it so hard to do so?

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