NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We’ve seen so many heroes surface during this pandemic — not only the essential workers, but the volunteers risking exposure to help others.

CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge spoke to the Red Cross about how their response is changing.

Cheering on health care workers, handing out food, helping people stay afloat from a distance — Red Cross volunteers aren’t letting the pandemic slow them down. They’re busier than ever.

“Disasters didn’t stop when the stay-at-home order went into effect. We continue to respond every single day in the greater New York region to home fires, apartment fires, building collapses. Any nature disaster, our volunteers are on the frontlines,” said Susan Rounds, interim CEO for the Red Cross New York Region.

Rounds says volunteers are doing as much as possible remotely.

“I have left my apartment twice since March 20 and I have helped hundreds of people,” disaster response volunteer Kim Taylor said.

Taylor used to show up to the scene of a fire to help families. Now, she calls them and books them into a hotel where emergency supplies are waiting so there’s limited contact.

How the Red Cross responds to natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes is also changing.

Instead of putting people in giant shelters or stadiums, they’ll be moved into private dorms or hotels to social distance, and instead of flying dozens of volunteers to the area, risking exposure, they’ll mobilize virtually.

“The remote work is so satisfying because three months ago, I could have five affected families to deal with at the same time and I only have five minutes or 10 minutes. With the arrival of the remote work, instead of that, we have an hour or two hours, and then they can call back. So we don’t have the physical presence, but we have way more time,” said Robert Manley with the disaster action team.

Even though Manley lost his own job during the shutdown, he says being able to volunteer has helped him overcome his own feeling of helplessness and give back.


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