By Gordon Williams
One of the many things Dana Evans does in Walla Walla WA is serve as president of the local chapter of the Exchange Club — a national service organization. Dana was presiding over an Exchange Club luncheon recently when she first learned of the urgent need for Red Cross volunteers in her community.
The plea for volunteers came from Lynne Calmus, senior volunteer recruitment specialist for the Red Cross Central and Southeastern Washington chapter. “We need to have a robust volunteer team in Walla Walla so that when disaster strikes we are ready to help,” Calmus said.
Dana was moved by Calmus’s appeal. She says she went home that night, talked it over with spouse Crystal Evans and the couple signed up as Red Cross volunteers. “We agreed it was something worth pursuing,” Dana says.
Now, Dana and Crystal are being trained as disaster responders and shelter workers — ready to assist at home fires or wildfires, or any other episode that requires a Red Cross response. Speaking of the training, Dana says, “It is quite the undertaking.”
Disaster responders in Walla Walla aren’t called out to serve as often as they would be in more populous areas. The population of Walla Walla is about 32,000 compared with 230,000 in Spokane and nearly 750,000 in Seattle. Disaster Action Teams (DAT) in Walla Walla respond to approximately two to three disasters a month — home fires for the most part, Calmus says.
Still, Red Cross volunteers are needed to shelter and assist victims after a disasters large and small. Besides home fires, there are the wildfires that can burn near the town, plus flooding and storms. DAT teams would be called out for any of those incidents.
Michele Roth, executive director of the Red Cross chapter that includes Walla Walla, makes the point that the whole community benefits from having committed and trained disaster responders. “When disaster strikes a small town or less populated area, we will immediately hear from members of the community, she says. “Everyone wants to help. Getting trained as a DAT member or Disaster Shelter Associate puts them into a position to do just that. The training prepares you to step right in when and where you’re needed.”
Calmus says that beyond responding to disasters, volunteers transport blood from the Red Cross blood collection center in Yakima to hospitals in Walla Walla. Red Cross volunteers also traditionally provide assistance at the veterans home and medical center in Walla Walla. The need to isolate during the pandemic has kept the Red Cross from going inside the veterans facility, but Calmus says that’s about to change. “We’re ramping up to start serving the veterans again,” she says.
All those activities require trained Red Cross volunteers. That has Calmus out and about, using such events as the Exchange Club meeting to recruit volunteers. “We need to let the community know the Red Cross is still active in Walla Walla,” she says. So far she has four volunteers signed up and being trained — Dana and Crystal and two more.
Now Dana and Crystal have added the Red Cross training to what are already super-busy lives. Dana was trained as a lawyer but is now a banker in Walla Walla. A star soccer player in her college days, she now coaches the local high school’s girls soccer team. Her father set a family tradition of service, first in the Army and then as a police officer. Crystal teaches at the high school and also coaches the girls softball teams.
Asked why they added the Red Cross to schedules that are already busy, Dana explains, “We are looking forward to being part of something that is bigger than ourselves.”
Calmus looks far and wide in her search for Red Cross volunteers. When she decided the Walla Walla Exchange Club might be a good way to meet potential volunteers, she joined the club. She will be on scene seeking more recruits on May 14 during the annual Ducky Derby — an event that raises money to support child abuse prevention programs. “The Red Cross will have a table there,” Calmus says. “You can come by our table ask questions and learn about the Red Cross.”
If you can’t make it to the Ducky Derby, Calmus says, “You can call me at 509-316-1845. I will tell you everything you need to know about our need for volunteers at the Walla Walla Red Cross.” You can also go to redcross.org/volunteer and apply.