Red Cross seeking volunteers

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Scott Snyder had an emergency of sorts Wednesday. He had to get to Clovis, and the plane that would take him there from Albuquerque had mechanical problems at its previous airport.

The emergency was solved simply, as Snyder arrived in time for a brainstorming session with local Red Cross volunteers. But Snyder, an emergency services director for the chapter encompassing eastern New Mexico, knows it takes more than a car and extra travel hours to solve most emergencies.

It’s people the organization needs, and local officials hope Saturday will help the local Red Cross fill out its ranks.

About 15 to 17 people from Clovis, Portales and Cannon Air Force Base make up the current network, local coordinator Cecilia Baize said. Ideally, she’d like to have three times as many people, even if members can only give a few hours here and there.

Baize said Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. session will be introductory. The meeting will cover key services and the organization’s history and find out what volunteering interests people have — whether it’s CPR, first aid, lifeguard, disaster services or something else.

The Red Cross has local offices at the Matt.25 Hope Center on Thornton Street. The upstairs office is usually vacant, with a sign telling people immediate help is available at 800-560-2302.

Snyder knows what kind of message an empty office can send, but stresses volunteers are what make the chapter work in its 21 New Mexico counties.

“It’s not about paid staff,” said Snyder, who said he has two paid staff members. “It’s about those people in that room who have stepped up to the plate to be providers of service.”

Snyder mentions “the 24/7 phone.” At the beginning of meetings, a black bag with the phone is moved from one member to another. The person who takes the bag is on call for any emergency that comes the Red Cross’ way.

“One of us carries it all the time,” said Brian Sapp of Portales. “So any time there’s a disaster, they can call our after hours number, which goes to a call center in San Diego, where they have access to the phone.”

Snyder said he’s confident people who want to help are in the area, and Saturday’s just one of many attempts to find them.

He added that every person helps, even if it’s somebody who can do nothing more than hold the phone and know who else to call if the need arises.

“It’s not that we have (emergencies) every day,” said Sapp, whose wife, Christine, has recently taught several baby-sitting classes for the Red Cross. “But when you’re on call for weeks at a time, you kind of put your life on hold.”