LIHU‘E — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kaua’i branch of the American Red Cross has experienced a shortage of volunteers.
Many local helpers find themselves in vulnerable age groups with pre-existing conditions and cannot help but fear contracting COVID-19.
Executive Director for Red Cross Kaua‘i Padraic Gallagher said the number of volunteers dwindled significantly. At the start of 2019, the Red Cross had 100 volunteers, which has now dwindled down to 60.
“Our numbers have gone down about half,” Gallagher said.
The American Red Cross Kaua‘i hopes to change the trend by hosting a Facebook and Zoom live conference event at 5 p.m. today in hopes of recruiting more volunteers.
“We need more volunteers because most of them are older and fall into that vulnerable category,” Gallagher said. “We need to expand our reach and give people a better understanding of what it is like to volunteer for the Red Cross.”
Larry LaSota, a government liaison for the Kaua’i Emergency Management Center, said the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only reason they are struggling for volunteers.
“I don’t know if it’s the pandemic even because (before COVID-19), it was always challenging to find volunteers,” LaSota said. “When you have something catastrophic like a hurricane and there are many other jobs, the Red Cross needs volunteers.”
The Red Cross nationally responds to 70,000 disasters, with a disaster every eight minutes in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, according to American Red Cross statistics. These are disasters such as fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires.
Disaster relief isn’t the only type of work the Red Cross does, they are also involved with helping fire victims, food drives and assisting in disasters such as floods and hurricanes.
“People need to understand we aren’t a governmental agency, which is the biggest misconception because we are not funded by the state or federal government,” Gallagher said.
For more information on the conference, you can go to the following link: facebook.com/groups/2374750842638068
Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.