Hurricane Volunteers Urged to Visit www.volunteer.gov
Washington D.C. -- As tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents fled Hurricane Gustav�s destructive path last weekend, hundreds of AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers were on hand to assist in the evacuation and set up and staff emergency shelters.
The Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America, has been working with FEMA, the American Red Cross, state service commissions, and nonprofit and voluntary groups to mobilize local members and volunteers, assess needs, and schedule deployments of national service participants from other states.
The primary focus for National Service in the immediate response phase has been assisting evacuation and staffing emergency shelters. More than 45,000 people have evacuated to hundreds of emergency shelters across the Gulf Coast and neighboring states, many supported by AmeriCorps members and RSVP volunteers.
As communities assess damage and evacuees begin to return home, the need for volunteers and national service participants will expand. Individuals interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit the www.volunteer.gov website, a comprehensive volunteer clearinghouse of the White House Office of USA Freedom Corps supported by the Corporation. The website offers more volunteer opportunities from thousands of national, state, and local volunteer groups than any other volunteer site in the world, and is updated with Gustav response opportunities daily. The site also directs individuals who want to make donations to a vetted list of national and state disaster response organizations.
�The swift, well-coordinated, and successful evacuation and sheltering initiatives underscored how effectively we�re using volunteers across the Gulf Coast and neighboring states and how much we�ve learned since Katrina,� said Corporation CEO David Eisner. �Although the damage from Gustav was less than expected, the needs are great. The American spirit of compassion and service will again make a critical difference in the lives of devastated families and communities.�
Eisner stressed the importance of volunteers connecting with organizations on the ground that have the capacity to utilize volunteers rather than self-deploying. Volunteers should monitor potential threats from tropical storms Hanna, Ike, and Josephine and heed instructions from emergency response officials as the storms continue to develop.
Among the many ways national service participants have responded to Gustav so far:
- Louisiana: AmeriCorps members serving with NCCC, VISTA, and Rebuilding Together provided critical support to the City Assisted Evacuation Plan, the largest government-assisted evacuation in New Orleans' history. The massive effort evacuated more than 18,000 metro residents who lacked transportation. AmeriCorps members prepared buses, ran the bus loading process alongside state employees, worked with Red Cross personnel to distribute water, affixed tracking bracelets to evacuees, and helped disabled residents. In addition, AmeriCorps members and RSVP volunteers are staffing shelters in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Alexandria, and the Louisiana state service commission is coordinating donation and volunteer management.
- Mississippi: AmeriCorps members and RSVP volunteers staff the State Call Center that was set up by the Governor�s Commission on Volunteer Service. Commission staff are participating in the Emergency Operations Center, identifying volunteer housing, and preparing Volunteer Reception Centers. Learn and Serve America student volunteers from Mississippi State University are providing Safe Spaces programs for children in shelters. RSVP volunteers are working with the American Red Cross Shelters in Meridian, and 15 RSVP HAM radio operators providing communications support.
- Alabama: AmeriCorps members from VISTA, Birmingham America Reads, the South Alabama Emergency Response Team and other programs are assisting in the sheltering operations that are housing 7,500 evacuees. The Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is coordinating a statewide Call Center, and Senior Corps volunteers are recruiting volunteers for shelters.
- In Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas and other neighboring states, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers are staffing shelters for evacuees, assisting with disaster preparations, and supporting call centers.
In the coming days, several AmeriCorps deployments from outside the Gulf Coast will augment the response and recovery efforts, including 34 teams of 10-12 AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members from the Denver and Perry Point, Md. campuses, 55 AmeriCorps members from the Washington Conservation Corps, a team from the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team, and a chainsaw team from Hoopa AmeriCorps Tribal Civilian Community Corps in California, among others.
The Corporation for National and Community Service improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. Each year the Corporation engages more than four million Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to meet local needs through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs. For more information, visit http://www.nationalservice.gov.