TORRINGTON – The American Red Cross is providing help to a family following a fire which burned much of their home and many of their belongings.
Two people have received assistance since the fire broke out Monday Oct. 25 at their home in Torrington. Volunteers from the American Red Cross have assisted in lining up a hotel room and providing immediate financial assistance for the family.
Overseeing this project is Dennis Hughes, who has spent the last five years as a full-time employee at the American Red Cross. He currently works as the Senior Disaster Program Manager of the Colorado and Wyoming Region, spanning from the Mile-High Area and northern Colorado to all of Wyoming.
When disaster strikes in his region, Hughes and his team reach out to those affected to learn what their needs are and how the Red Cross can help, whether it be a hotel, food, clothing or even replacing lost medications with the help of licensed health care professionals. In this case, volunteers gave help virtually, never meeting face-to-face with the family or coordinating in person with local entities to get the needed help.
The Red Cross also offers mental health support to clients. Licensed professionals, school psychologists and counselors, psychiatric nurses and retired mental health professionals can all apply to serve as volunteers with the Red Cross to provide counseling and other services to victims.
The COVID-19 pandemic has harmed businesses and organizations all across the world, and the American Red Cross is no exception. Hughes says it has been a challenge just to make sure employees and volunteers feel safe. The American Red Cross employs more than 20,000 people and has nearly 314,000 volunteers across the country.
Hughes urges those looking to make a difference in their communities to volunteer with the Red Cross. Up to 95% of the Red Cross’s workforce is made up of volunteers.
“One of the biggest things, particularly for Wyoming, is we’re looking for those individuals that will help us respond to these events such as this single-family fire,” Hughes said. “We’re able to do what we’re able to do because of the volunteers and we’re always looking for more individuals that have an interest…It’s local people helping their neighbors and that’s what we’re really trying to focus on.”
In all his time with the Red Cross, Hughes isn’t sure he can pick one family or person in need that stands out to him.
“Each response and each client is different,” Hughes said. “We get lots of thank you’s and gratitude from our clients on a consistent basis. And that’s probably the biggest thing that stands out to me is that.”
In covering such a large area with not many volunteers, Hughes’s team stays busy.
“In this region our volunteers respond to a single-family fire or even a multifamily fire three times a day in our two-state region.”