South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Red Cross looking for volunteers to help get messages to servicemen

 


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 Armed Forces Emergency Services (AFES) program. Courses are being offered to train volunteers needed for this essential Red Cross team.

The Red Cross plays an instrumental role in validating the messages with the most current information available. AFES volunteers are taught the regulations and protocol for communicating between the military and families.

For more than a century, the Red Cross has provided these services to members of the U.S. military and their families – a tradition started by Clara Barton, the organization's founder during the Civil War. A training session will be held at Red Cross Chapter Headquarters, 225 Boulevard of the Allies on February 10, 2007 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“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 St. Clair.

“Sometimes I can go an evening with no calls; sometimes I'll have five calls in five hours. AFES is a great volunteering opportunity with the Red Cross because you can do it from home and yet you're helping people thousands of miles away.”

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 important 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 service person's command and not be the Red Cross.

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 http://www.swpa. redcross.org or call 888-217-9599.

 

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