Space is still available to train for the Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services (AFES) program.
Last year 770 local military families depended on the American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter to send messages to their U.S. service members during times of crisis through the AFES program.
Volunteers for AFES answer calls regarding important news from military families such as the death of a loved one, serious illness or the birth of a child. AFES volunteers are the key to verifying and processing this information for the families' loved ones currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces using a worldwide network of Red Cross staff and volunteers. The volunteers may call such places as hospitals, funeral homes or doctor's offices to obtain the proper verification. The approval for leave is granted by the serviceperson's command, not by the Red Cross.
The upcoming training will be Saturday, Feb. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Red Cross Chapter Headquarters, 225 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
“The military looks to the Red Cross to verify family emergency situations. We report to the national communications center and then the military makes the final call on the situation,” said Dick Ritchie, an AFES volunteer for the past three years from Upper Saint Clair. “Sometimes I can go an evening with no calls; sometimes I'll have five calls in five hours. AFES is a great volunteer opportunity with the Red Cross because you can do it from home and yet you're helping people thousands of miles away.”
All trainings are free and open to the public. Volunteers will be asked to provide references and complete a background check. Registration is required; visit www.swpa.redcross.org or call 888-217-9599.