Opportunity to get involved in helping at Red Cross Volunteer Intake Center

By Kathleen Maclay, Red Cross volunteer

With hundreds seeking Red Cross help as Northern California wildfires have forced residents to evacuate, the American Red Cross is offering a one-stop Volunteer Intake Center (VIC) in the Lake County community of Middletown from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday, August 4. Maybe longer.


Kathleen Maclay and Pamela Blaze discuss the how the volunteer intake process works. Photo Credit Virginia Becker | American Red Cross

Pamela Baze is a Santa Rosa resident and the manager of volunteer and youth services for the Red Cross in Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Marin, and Solano counties, which together comprise a generally bucolic region that has been stricken over and over in recent years by devastating fires.

Baze was on hand Wednesday at the VIC set up at Middletown’s United Methodist Church on Armstrong Avenue in hopes of simplifying and expediting the Red Cross volunteer intake process and onboard community members who want to be part of the solution as their community grapple with the Mendocino Complex Fire impacts.

“When you’re displaced, volunteering can help keep your mind off of it,” said Baze, who previously worked with the chronically traumatized on emergency response and conflict resolution.  “It’s a way to keep busy and stay positive.”

The VIC enables area residents to register as new Red Cross volunteers, then undergo brief training and a background check before receiving an official ID badge as well as an immediate assignment, ideally for those new volunteers able to commit to the job for three days.

As the center opened Wednesday, there was an urgent need for help staffing shelters in Middletown and nearby Lower Lake, where hundreds have stayed since fires drove them from their homes. In addition, Baze said the Red Cross needs assistance distributing recovery and cleanup supplies once residents of evacuated areas can return safely to their homes. On the first day of the VIC, 11 people came in and 7 new volunteers trained and were assigned to shifts the following day!

“People are excited. The reception when I walk into places with my Red Cross hat and badge is amazing. Everybody’s got smiles,” Baze said.

Photo of Cynthia Leonard, her daughter Maya, and Kathleen Maclay.

Red Cross volunteer Kathleen Maclay learns from Cynthia Leonard about why she wanted to volunteer for the Mendocino Complex Fires. Her 12-year daughter, Maya has decided to volunteer as well. Photo credit: Virginia Becker | American Red Cross

Lake County residents for 20 years, the Leonard family lost their home in Cobb to wildfire two years ago, evacuating within 40 minutes of official orders to leave. They finished their rebuilding and moved back only a month before the Mendocino Complex fire broke out. Cindy Leonard broke into smiles, and a few tears, as she underwent her VIC process this week.

“It’s been such a long process, and so many people have helped us that we want to give back,” Leonard said, as her 12-year-old daughter Maya sat nearby and helped create VIC materials. She’s been volunteering with the Red Cross since having to flee their home, often serving as a conduit for information sharing between the Red Cross and her neighbors.

“Our community has really pulled together, and people are getting to know their neighbors more,” she said. “We look on the bright side.”

And, said Leonard, getting involved in helping to meet community challenges seems like the natural thing to do. After all, she said, despite all that’s happened, she and her family wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Wildfires across California have stretched the Red Cross volunteer ranks. To apply online to be an event-based volunteer in the Mendocino Complex area, visit https://tinyurl.com/MendoComplexVol.