As many weather experts predict an extremely busy disaster weather season this year, The American Red Cross of New Jersey said it is in critical need of having a trained, ready volunteer workforce.

Severe weather-related disasters are becoming more frequent and more intense, said Rosie Taravella, CEO of The American Red Cross of New Jersey. She said she expect so see well-above normal wildfires and hurricanes this year as in past years. The wildfire season is already very active out west and the Red Cross has deployed many volunteers to assist.

If wildfires and hurricanes are happening at the same time, especially with at least 10 more named-hurricanes expected this season, Taravella said Red Cross really depletes its workforce quickly.

Volunteers are always needed to assist locally with the disaster action team, especially after a fire occurs, she added.

But in terms of disasters where people deploy, she said they need help in sheltering and with health care services. So, if someone is a licensed healthcare professional, there's a lot of work aligned with what that person is licensed to do.

Shelter volunteers help with reception, registration, food distribution, dormitory needs and a lot of information collection. When people have lost their homes and are staying in a Red Cross shelter, Taravella said they are really cut off from the information they need. So the Red Cross facilitates a lot of information for folks. There's also entry level and supervisory positions available too.

Health care professionals provide hands-on-care. With the pandemic, they need to observe people, do potential health screenings, look for COVID-19 symptoms, help people with dietary needs and medications.

Taravella said the local disaster action team helps respond 24/7 to local emergencies. There were more than 925 local disasters in New Jersey last year. These people offer critical recovery, help people register into local hotels for temporary lodging, provide food and clothing and financial assistance, then getting them into the next steps for full recovery.

While the American Red Cross of New Jersey currently has 700 volunteers in its disaster workforce, Taravella said they are looking for 250 more.

To volunteer, please visit www.redcross.org/volunteer or email NJ Volunteer Services Team at joinnj@redcross.org.

Beautiful sunflower fields to visit in NJ 2021

Among reasons why the “Garden State” remains a fitting nickname for New Jersey — late summer means the arrival of sunflower season.

There are at least six fields, spanning the state. Some are in bloom as of early August, while others are planned to peak from late August to late September.

Calling or emailing before heading out is always advisable if weather appears to be an issue.