The American Red Cross (ARC) Southwest Florida (SWF) Youth Corps has supported their local soldiers and their families locally and overseas from the start of the war to the present. The ARC SWF Youth Corps members range from ages 12 to 18. They have more than 40 members, and they were formed in 2003. The Youth Corps supports the SWF Chapter’s activities and embrace the community projects and disaster relief with vigor. They have worked on projects throughout the year to assist the troops and their families as well as communities in southwest Florida.
The Youth Corps has raised funds to ship comfort packages overseas to deployed troops. On several Saturdays, this team assisted elderly women in their homes by working in their yards. The members are also active in distributing disaster-preparedness literature at fairs and expos sponsored by the community. They have also marched alongside the Red Cross flag with disaster volunteers in local parades as proud members of the ARC.
The Youth Corps members are flourishing with their training in disaster relief. They have also gained knowledge in lifesaving skills and guidance in team building as well as leadership skills. They do all this while meeting or exceeding their educational goals through their schools.
Floodwaters threatened southwest Florida last June and the Youth Corp quickly opened a shelter in Sarasota County for displaced residents fleeing high waters. Then, as rains continued to pound and 11-county area of the SWF region, causing widespread flooding; a need for immediate expanded disaster assistance was apparent. A national Disaster Relief operation was quickly set up at the SWF Chapter headquarters. More than 10,000 meals and snacks were distributed to flood victims and emergency workers. The severe effects of the floods were felt for more than two weeks. SWF Chapter volunteers continued offering assistance to residents with disaster-caused needs well into October. The cost of the operation exceeded $100,000. Because of their tireless effort and dedication, national Red Cross volunteers who came to Florida to help with the flood disaster in June dubbed the SWF Youth Corps “the A-Team”.
Under the direction of volunteer Bill Sullivan, the Youth Corps wash cars to raise money for their Operation Happy Holidays program. For 15 years, the Knitters and Sewers group has gathered each Tuesday morning to knit, sew and crochet items for various projects. They cheerfully sewed 200 camouflage stockings for Operation Happy Holidays that were sent to the sons and daughters of those serving as well as their comrades. The efforts of the Youth Corp mesh with the work of the ARC SWF members to meet the needs of community members in Sarasota, Florida.