October 6, 2005

Rawlings Offers Paid Leave to Aid Workers

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President Hunter R. Rawlings III announced on Sept. 16 that he is offering a three-week paid leave for all faculty and staff of Cornell who are interested in traveling to volunteer and help the hurricane recovery efforts in the gulf.

The offer stands for all full-time and part-time employees, and will be in effect until September 2006. The paid leave will not count against regular paid time off balances, and it will be for the regular hours worked.

All Cornell employees interested in volunteering are required to be emergency responders, and this certification is available through the American Red Cross.

“If faculty and staff are registered as responders at this point, Cornell is encouraging them to pursue this option,” stated Simeon Moss of the Press Relations Office.

The Red Cross of Tompkins County has set up a program for those interested in volunteering. The program is through the Disaster Services sect of the Red Cross. There are four courses and an application that must be completed in order to gain certification to help. All emergency responders are required to be certified in basic first aid and adult CPR.

The four courses include an Introductory to Disaster Services course that can be completed online, a Community Service Overview, a course in Shelter Operations, and a course called Family Services: Providing Emergency Assistance.

The intro course must be taken first, and according to Michael Raffe, director of emergency services for the Red Cross of Tompkins County, once the applicant comes in for an interview, the Red Cross assesses the person’s “life skills” to determine which of the other courses must be completed.

“Different jobs have different schedules,” Raffe said. “We look at the schedule of the volunteer, and work around it when determining when he or she would go down.”

For instance, a faculty member could fly down to volunteer during a scheduled school break.

“We also look at the career of the person in assessing how we can best use their expertise,” Raffe said. If, for example, a volunteer is involved in human resources, the Red Cross could staff them locally to help at the office.

There are approximately 25 current employees of Cornell who are registered and trained, ready to go help. There are also numerous alumni in the area, according to Raffe, who are also ready to volunteer. A Cornell University Police Department officer left last week to assist with the relief effort, and another is scheduled to leave upon his return.

Of all the volunteers from New York State, four percent of them are from the Tompkins County.

“This is a tremendous outreach from such a small community,” Raffe said.

There are two different teams that the volunteers can be part of as Red Cross volunteers. As a Disaster Action team member, they attend monthly meetings and do service, as a Local Disaster Relief team member, they participate in many operations around the county, and as part of the National Disaster and Relief team, members are part of the Disaster Services and Human Resources (DSHR) division, and they participate in large-scale national operations.

“Most of our volunteers are part of the national system,” said Raffe.

There are many openings for classes in October, and the Red Cross is holding workshops on the Cornell campus on Oct. 24, 26, 27, and 29.

Cornell students have raised over $10,000 towards the hurricane relief effort, according to the Cornell Student Relief Initiative website.

“It’s great that President Rawlings is enabling Cornell to help in a way different from donating funds,” said Marielle Mindlin ’09.

Archived article by Sarah Signer
Sun Contributor