COVID-19 has meant big adjustments for everyone, including the Red Cross. In fact, because of the pandemic, we have some unique opportunities for individuals who are looking for ways to give back to their community during these difficult times.
Disaster volunteers needed
This year’s hurricane and wildfire season is predicted to be an especially busy one and the Red Cross needs volunteers to help those impacted by these devastating situations. Unfortunately, the pandemic has reduced the number of volunteers who are available to deploy, making it critical that we find more individuals willing to help, even temporarily.
Normally, when volunteers join the Red Cross team, they plan to stay on for a certain length of time but with the urgent need for volunteers, we are encouraging anyone who can help, even just once, to sign up to volunteer.
If you are healthy and able, now is a great time to see what a Red Cross deployment is like on a temporary basis.
Individuals are needed to work in shelters to help with registration, feeding, dormitory needs and information collection. Additionally, individuals with a nursing license are also needed to help assess people’s health and provide hands-on care in alignment with their license.
Volunteers must be able to deploy for a 14-day period and work eight- to 12-hour shifts. They will also be required to take three to six hours of virtual training and undergo a pre-health screening.
The Red Cross is conducting virtual classes for those wanting additional information. Sign up for an informational session at www.redcross.org/hurricanedeploy. Individuals may sign up to volunteer at www.redcross.org/volunteertoday.
COVID-19 plasma donors needed
The Red Cross is also seeking COVID-19 survivors who are willing to donate plasma to help patients who are now battling the virus. Currently, the demand for the convalescent plasma products is greater than the donations coming in, resulting in an emergency shortage of the product.
Convalescent plasma is collected from individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have antibodies that may help patients fight the virus. So far this year, thousands of individuals have donated enabling Red Cross to provide a total of nearly 30,000 convalescent plasma products to hospitals this year.
There are specific requirements to donate convalescent plasma. Individuals who are interested are asked to sign up online at www.redcrossblood.org/plasma4covid.
For those individuals who don’t qualify to give convalescent plasma, there is always a need for blood donations from those who are eligible and healthy and a need for businesses and organizations willing to host blood drives.
To ensure the safety of donors, each blood drive and donation center follows specific protocols to ensure the health of staff and donors. These include temperature checks of all individuals entering the drives, additional cleaning and sanitizing and providing hand sanitizer. Everyone is also required to wear face masks.
Blood and platelet and plasma donors will also be tested for COVID-19 antibodies when they donate. The tests do not diagnose illness, but rather determine if someone has antibodies. Donors receive results within seven to 10 days through the Red Cross Blood Donor or through our website at redcrossblood.org.
Mary Jane Thomsen, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Greater St. Louis, that includes Madison County, has served in this role since April 2018 and with the organization since 2010. As Executive Director, Thomsen manages the board of directors and its committees, key financial partners and blood sponsors and represents the Red Cross to the Greater St. Louis communities through public speaking engagements, media interviews and various community opportunities.