The American Red Cross sits casually at the back of everyone’s mind until disaster strikes. Then the organization springs to the forefront as Red Cross volunteers swing into action.

It may be a home ravaged by fire, a tornado and its deadly effects, a flood and its mindless destruction or a major disaster like a hurricane or 9/11. Whatever the disaster, the Red Cross is soon on the spot, helping neighbor after neighbor.

In order to maintain a response team, the Red Cross is constantly upgrading and training volunteers to fill the needs of those touched by disaster. Last week, the organization went to Midlothian to train seven new volunteers for the Ellis County Disaster Action Team.

Roger Schuelke, Mary Jane Vineyard, Susan Paschall, Linda Pullen, Robert Emerson, Keri Emerson and Jerry English met at the main fire station for three days of intense training.

On hand to lead the workshop was Shelly Campbell, a Red Cross emergency services specialist.

“People need to know that there is a phenomenal need for disaster action team volunteers. Ninety-four percent of the American Red Cross is volunteers. I am extremely honored and privileged to serve in my job,” Campbell said.

The agency’s fiscal year 2006, which ends in about two weeks, June 30, has been very active for the ECDAT, she said.

“With a team of four core members, Ellis County has had 63 incidents of single family dwelling fires where we have responded to assist 247 individuals. The team also responded to 18 incidents of storms and flooding. That is helping 18 families and handing out 103 cleanup kits to families with homes that flooded March 28-29,” she said. “So, I am really happy to have seven new volunteers to be on hand to help.”

The newest volunteers were given an introduction to disaster to begin the workshop. Then they were taken through a community service overview and taught how the team would be fulfilling the Red Cross mission. They were then taught how to transfer their community compassion into action. Included in the training was familiarization of local Red Cross equipment and assets.

Campbell said three of the Ellis County volunteers also assist in cases of national disaster as well.

To volunteer to be a member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, visit online at www.redcrossdallas.org and click on the link to volunteer.

Campbell said Harriet Halkyard, a nationally recognized Red Cross volunteer and speaker, will speak on her experiences from single family fires to major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina at Gander Mountain Lodge in Corsicana on June 21. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m.

For additional information, contact Campbell at (903) 874-4551.