PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Ron Beckley of Gloucester speaks about being a Red Cross volunteer.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — More than a week after the American Red Cross of Massachusetts helped victims of a six-alarm apartment building fire in the city, the nonprofit is asking for help.
“We are constantly on the lookout for more volunteers because we like to have people in the pipeline,” said Frederica Doeringer, executive director of the Red Cross’ Northeast chapter. “And we are worried that a shortage of local volunteers will impact our ability to respond to disasters.”
A half dozen potential volunteers attended an open house Tuesday night at City Hall where Red Cross staff and volunteers provided an overview and outlined opportunities for potential newcomers.
Over the New Year’s holiday, Red Cross responded to an apartment building fire on West Baltimore Street where 65 residents were displaced. Volunteers were on scene assisting victims while others manned temporary quarters at City Hall and Classical High School. Thanks to the Red Cross, many of the homeless tenants received hotel vouchers and were placed in permanent housing.
Farha Mithila, a Red Cross volunteer who lives 15 minutes from the West Baltimore fire, told the group that she was part of the team that was dispatched to City Hall.
“It feels nice to give back to my community,” she said. “As a volunteer, the most important thing for me is to be there to support people. It has been really satisfying.”
While the cause of the West Baltimore Street fire was electrical, Doeringer said harsh winter temperatures cause people to use space heaters and fireplaces more frequently. As a result, she said, there’s an increase in home fires during the winter months.
Red Cross volunteers, more than 450 on the North Shore, respond to hundreds of fires from November through February alone.
When disaster strikes, the Red Cross provides shelter, food, emotional support, health services and relief supplies to thousands of people affected by disasters in Massachusetts. They also work with individuals, families, businesses and communities to provide recovery assistance following a disaster.
Volunteers on scene typically provide comfort to displaced residents, financial assistance for emergency housing and other essential needs, distribute meals and operate community shelters.
Last year, Red Cross of Massachusetts distributed nearly $900,000 in assistance to more than 1,400 families who were affected by disasters.
Retired postal worker James Attridge, 65, attended the open house and said he is interested in joining the Red Cross.
“I have time on my hands,” he said.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]