Disaster Volunteer

Salvation Army offering extra disaster training as volunteers increase

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An uptick in Hoosiers volunteering to deploy with Salvation Army relief teams is causing the organization to increase the number of training sessions in Indiana.

Several dozen volunteers-in-training filled the Emergency Disaster Services Training Center at Georgetown and Lafayette roads in a sold-out class on Thursday morning.

“Get yourself a comfortable pair of boots,” advised Bert Williams, speaking to the students.

Salvation Army officers said they’ve had several calls of well-meaning Hoosiers asking to be deployed with the teams to Texas or Florida.

Volunteer trainer Jerry Larsen says it’s not that easy.

“We always tell our volunteers, you don’t want to be a part of the disaster, you want to be a part of the resolution,” said Larsen. “You need to be trained; you need know at least a little bit of what you’ll experience if you’re deployed in a disaster area.”

Most of the volunteers have signed up in the last two weeks, after watching scenes of Harvey and Irma unfold on their TV screens.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Bonnie Lair, a volunteer-in-training from Indianapolis. “It makes me cry really, when I think about it sometimes. And I just hope I can be of some help at some point.”

“We got interested with all of the disasters we’ve had the last year or so,” said Mike Brooks from Frankfort. “[It’s] been on our heart that it takes a lot of manpower to help people in distress.”

To become a Salvation Army volunteer, you need to pass a background check, take two four-hour preparedness courses, and for further specialization, enroll in one of 20 other skills courses like emergency medicine, incident command or canteen management.

“I told my wife a few minutes ago, I need another course,” said Brooke. “I’d like to have more information on this and more resources.”

The volunteers in attendance Thursday ranged in age from retirees to high school students.

“I’m a junior at Westfield High School, and I’m really interested in the future volunteering,” Sydney Shampo, a volunteer-in-training.”I feel like my generation is not as involved as it should be.”

Shampo said the administration at Westfield High School was very accommodating, and as long as she brought in her certificate of completion, her absence to attend the training would be excused.

“Most people feel like they’re just one individual and they’re not going to do much as an individual, but being an individual on a team makes you bigger than that,” said Shampo.

“I’m really excited about the number of people here, and I’m sure out of this group here, there are a lot of people who are dedicated and educated, trained enough that we could use them at some point,” said Larsen.

If you’d like to volunteer for the Salvation Army, the next training courses are scheduled for Sept. 30 in Bluffton and Oct. 14 in Shelbyville. For class details and sign up information, click here.