When Rick Riley retired from his career with Interior Health a few years ago the Kelowna man was looking for a way to stay connected to the community that had become home.
Riley would find that connection through the Canadian Red Cross as one of the organization’s valuable volunteers.
Now 64, Riley is in the volunteer position of president of the B.C. Southern Interior (BCSI) region of the Red Cross.
“It keeps me feeling like I have a role in the community that’s fairly important,” said Riley as the Red Cross embarks on a volunteer recruitment drive. “This gives me the opportunity to use the skills I developed through my working life. We’re trying to increase our effectiveness in the community. “
The Red Cross will be holding two information sessions this week for people who are interested in becoming volunteers. The group is looking for people to fill roles in several of its program but is currently focusing on its disaster management program.
“Our disaster management program is both domestic and international,” said BCSI operations manager John Richey. “If there is an event going on in the world, our Canadian Red Cross locations are working to support the organizations wherever that disaster is.”
Riley says the Red Cross also helps out locally. Currently the southern interior branch has four people running a “resiliency station” in Nelson where residents were burned out of their apartment unit. Last fall several people also attended situations in Bella Coola and in Williams Lake.
There are currently about 20 volunteers in the Kelowna area and close to 100 in the Southern Interior and the Red Cross is looking to possibly double those numbers.
“We have people up and down the valley but we want to strengthen our base in Kelowna because that is where a lot of our resources are,” said Richey, noting the group has about 10 staff members in Kelowna.
“Having a number of people in a geography like ours is really critical. We try to maintain a sufficient pool of volunteer resources that can assist us because we never know when an emergency is going to come.”
For Riley, volunteering with a group like the Canadian Red Cross is especially rewarding because of the base of knowledge and training that the group can provide to those interested.
“It is rewarding and it’s also challenging,” said Riley. “When you get into a major activity like a disaster response you need to understand the system and tools they have. The Red Cross has good programs to train people. They want to support their volunteers. There is a good feeling of camaraderie in the organization because everyone feels like they are working for a good cause.”
The Red Cross information sessions are this Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 25 and 26, noon, at the Canadian Red Cross office in Kelowna. Space is limited so if you are interested RSVP email@example.com or call 250-763-1859, ext. 0.