Addison County’s disaster response team working hard, seeking members

ADDISON COUNTY — More than a year since its founding, the Addison County Red Cross Disaster Team is looking to expand its cohort of volunteers.
A local chapter of the Vermont Red Cross, the team is currently a group of four local volunteers who help residents of Addison County in the event of a disaster. They meet once a month at the Middlebury Fire Department on Seymour Street, with the support of the fire department and Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley.
Team coordinator Jill Stackhouse said the Red Cross does more than people realize.
 “When people think of the Red Cross, they think of blood drives, but it’s so much more than that. Most of what we do is work with people who have been displaced,” Stackhouse said. “We meet with them after a fire and find them a place to stay. We give them some money for clothing and food and a safe place to be until they can figure out what their next step is.”
In addition to aiding disaster victims, the Addison County Red Cross Disaster Team also recently took part in a national campaign to install and check smoke detectors.
“This spring, we identified at-risk neighborhoods and went door to door dropping off smoke detector information,” said Stackhouse. “We checked their batteries or gave them batteries, and if they didn’t have a smoke detector we installed one. So that was kind of disaster prevention.”
Though the team is still small in numbers, Addison County residents have already felt the effect of their services. Since its founding in March 2014, the disaster team has already served 12 adults and nine children who were displaced due to fires.
Prior to the team’s founding, Addison County disaster victims received assistance from Red Cross volunteers from Chittenden and Rutland counties, a situation Stackhouse said wasn’t ideal.
“(Those volunteers) don’t necessarily know all of the resources that are available for people locally, not like somebody like me or some of the members of our team that live here,” she said. “It was making it more difficult for those folks to respond. That’s why we felt we wanted to have a centrally located chapter here.”
In the future, the team hopes to be able to provide more support for first responders in the event of a larger-scale disaster.
“In a long-term event, we would source food and drinks and that kind of thing for the first responders, the firefighters and EMT people, to give them what they need so they can keep doing their job,” said Stackhouse.
Yet such a response would require far more volunteers and resources, said Stackhouse, who would like to see a bigger team.  
“Our group is very small at this point. We really don’t have enough people to cover all the bases,” she said. “If we could at least double our team, to have eight really active people, that would be great.”
Here is the number that folks can contact if they would like more information about volunteering with or joining the Addison Country Disaster Team: Call the Rutland office at 802-660-9130.  If they leave their information Stackhouse will follow up with you.

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