Central Valley Red Cross needs volunteers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Central Valley charity is running in the red when it comes to holiday help during a very busy winter.

The trouble started for the Loza family after fire destroyed the kitchen and spread into the attic. Firefighters had to rip out drywall to douse the flames, and most of the insulation now lies in a gray pile in the front yard. The Lozas were suddenly homeless on a Tuesday afternoon. But before the firefighters left, the Red Cross showed up. "I was kind of like in shock, but they helped and I was very thankful," said Lupe Loza.

It may be weeks before the Lozas can live in their home again, but the Red Cross gave them a soft landing. Fires have kept the charity's disaster relief team busy this year, especially since cold weather arrived. "We've responded to over 400 home fires," said Red Cross spokeswoman Jessica Piffero. "Just since thanksgiving, we've done nearly 50."

The hidden toll of these disasters hits the people trying to ease the pain.
The Red Cross still has plenty of blankets and gift bags-- complete with Mickey Mouse dolls for displaced children. But with so many fires and weeks long troubles like we've seen at Fresno's Summerset Village, volunteers can get worn out and the charity needs a bullpen to step up. "We don't need just the disaster volunteers," said Piffero. "Our workforce is 90-percent spread across the organization so it's really important for us to have volunteers of all capacities, with all skills and all sorts of time commitments."

The rewards come in the form of hugs from victims, and appreciation from families like the Lozas. "They were here right away and it was very comforting to have someone tell you that you're going to be ok and that they're going to be there for you, so it's extremely important that if you can volunteer, you know, go ahead," said Eric Loza.

You can go to the Red Cross website to find volunteer opportunities.

They're planning a big smoke alarm giveaway for the MLK holiday weekend next month, hoping to prevent the disasters that, for the moment, have the charity stretched thin.
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