Stepping up: United Way to prepare volunteers for disasters

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–When a disaster strikes, volunteers from local and regional organizations such as the American Red Cross, Rebuilding Together Muscatine County, the Salvation Army of Muscatine County, and United Way of Muscatine come together to care for people in need and get their communities back on track. From cleaning up after severe storms, to assisting people displaced by fires, to lending a hand at mass vaccination clinics during a pandemic, local organizations help out in many ways during times of crisis.

In order for organizations to provide this kind of support, they need many volunteers, and for the volunteers to offer effective help, they must know ahead of time what to do and how they fit into larger disaster response efforts. To recruit more volunteers and to get them ready to help out in an emergency, United Way of Muscatine will host their first Emergency Disaster Volunteer Summit Feb. 26.

As someone who has orchestrated many volunteer efforts, United Way Program Coordinator Nichole Sorgenfrey thought the Emergency Disaster Volunteer Summit could allow Muscatine County have a stronger response to a potential disaster. “I came up with this idea so that we could train volunteers now so that when something big comes up we can serve the community better,” she explained.

Feb. 26 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Calvary Church (501 US Highway 61 Bypass, Suite 16), leaders from the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, 55+ RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), and some Muscatine County first responders will present, sharing what they need emergency volunteers for in situations such as a fire, flood, pandemic, or tornado and teaching them a bit about each different role. “This is where they learn where the fit in,” said Sorgenfrey.

Specifically, each organization will talk about both the front line volunteers they need (such as people to direct traffic or cut down fallen trees with chainsaws) as well as who they could use behind the scenes (such as people to do data entry and other clerical work).

Additionally, if people have an interest in signing up as a volunteer for any of the organizations present at the summit, they can do so, allowing the organizations to update their volunteer list and ensure they have people to contact when disaster strikes. Personally, Sorgenfrey most looks forward to, “getting to know new volunteers and letting them know how they can help us.”

If you would like to learn more about how different local organizations respond to disasters and what sort of volunteer needs they have, Sorgenfrey encourages you to sign up for and to attend the Emergency Disaster Volunteer Summit. Anyone planning to attend may sign up online using their short Google Form or by calling Sorgenfrey at (563)-260-5771.

A completely free event, Sorgenfrey would like to see many community members with a wide variety of skills and interests come out and, “figure out how they can get involved and if it’s a good fit for them.”

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