A ruthless pandemic and a devastated economy make up a perfect storm already facing the Rio Grande Valley, and the South Texas American Red Cross Chapter is gearing up to defend the region should it incur natural disaster.

The crisis organization is seeking volunteers to join its Texas Gulf Coast response team which includes the Valley, an area susceptible to destructive floods in impoverished areas. When the June floods in 2019 left much of the region inundated, volunteers across the nation responded and helped recover and heal the area.

This year’s hurricane season will be different, it will overlap a pandemic.

In the case that the tropical disturbance currently brewing in the Gulf Coast, or Tropical Storm Gonzalo in the Atlantic, heads towards the region, much of the crisis response team will have to be composed of local volunteers.

David Luna, the chapter’s executive director, said because of the pandemic, the organization is hoping to minimize how many team members come from out of the area, given that efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has complicated travel.

Though there is a local team preparing for the imminent storms, he said the organization needs more manpower.

“I know that we expected more volunteers by now,” Luna said. “… We will definitely need a lot of folks, we want to be prepared and ready for the worst, and train as many as we can.”

The organization is accepting volunteers and several different skills and fields.

Volunteers will be needed to organize and coordinate shelter efforts, while healthcare workers will also need to be on hand. They are accepting medically trained individuals of many distinctions, including registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, EMTs, paramedics and physical assistants.

The organization is also accepting certified nursing assistants, and nursing and medical students for volunteer work.

For more information on volunteering eligibility, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

The pandemic has also changed the way the American Red Cross plans to operate.

Usually, families whose homes are destroyed by disasters are placed in shelters, and in the case of overflow, the organization coordinated with schools and local churches to use their facilities. Social distancing precautions due to the virus have led the American Red Cross to hotels.

Volunteers must be older than 18, and will have to go through online training. Luna emphasized that the work of good Samaritans in the Valley is needed now more than ever.

“It has to be individuals with a good heart that wants to help others,” he said. “People are not being paid monetarily, you are paid by a reward to your heart, to help and serve others.”

Luna emphasized that the organization is diligent on complying with CDC social distancing recommendations, and those interested in volunteering should not be worried about contracting the virus while doing so.

All volunteers wear face masks, gloves and stay 6 feet away from others. Opportunities for virtual volunteer work are also available.

“We are not going to put anyone in harm’s way,” he said.