The Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross estimates it needs to recruit at least 300 volunteers for its call center to handle questions from Hurricane Katrina victims in the coming weeks.
Six volunteers began taking calls Sunday, but the center needs about 30 per day to be fully staffed, said chapter spokesman Robert Thompson. The American Red Cross has told the chapter to expect to keep the call center operating for the next six weeks.
"They gave us notice yesterday that they needed us," Thompson said Sunday. "We desperately need people to come in."
Volunteers had received "a couple hundred" calls by Sunday evening.
The calls came from Florida and Louisiana, from people who need food or shelter and from people who didn't leave when it was advised.
"They know that they may never see their homes again or that their homes are going to look very different when they go back, so there is a lot of anxiety," said Red Cross volunteer B.J. Coyle.
Katrina hit New Orleans Monday morning.
"We're getting calls now from people on the highway, from cell phones, saying, 'Where's the nearest shelter?" Thompson said.
Last year, the call center handled about 15,000 calls in five weeks from those affected by hurricanes in the Southeast. Calls typically pick up about 8 to 12 hours after a hurricane hits land, Thompson said.
The Denver-area Red Cross chapter has already sent a dozen staffers to the Gulf Coast, leading to a greater need for call center volunteers.
If you are interested in volunteering call (303) 607-4750.
Volunteers will come in for a 2½ hour orientation and then sign up for a four-hour shift.
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