ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR ) — About 95% of the American Red Cross is made up of volunteers, more than 500 of whom are in southwest Virginia.

One Roanoke volunteer, Dwayne Puckett, travels across the country, responding to communities in need of help after a disaster. 

“First thing I do is get my suitcase and start packing,” said Puckett.

When he gets the call, he immediately gets to work. 

“You get the yard mowed, get a haircut, pay your bills, get all your affairs in order,” Puckett told WFXR News.

This Star City resident is often gone for two weeks at a time, not knowing where he’ll stay.

“Sometimes it’s a staff shelter, sometimes it’s a motel,” he said. 

However, it’s what he sees firsthand that sticks with him.

“It changes you after you do it a while and I do it as long as I can, but it’s really fulfilling,” said Puckett.

“I seen on TV the need for people, plus I was just wanting a change in my life at the time,” he added as he recalled why he decided to become an American Red Cross volunteer. 

According to Puckett, five years ago, he was an alcoholic, so instead of going to bars and drinking all the time, he started volunteering and doing other things, receiving support from people in AA and church. Now he’s doing what he can to help folks in their toughest days. 

“They need a hot meal while they’re rebuilding their life, and so we offer that,” said Puckett. “Delivering emergency supplies, drive a truck, go out to neighborhoods, handing out emergency supplies.”

He’s responded to tornadoes in the Midwest; wildfires in California; and hurricanes in Louisiana, Florida, and the Carolinas, always willing to leave home to help.

“I open up the deployment information pretty much all through hurricane season and his name is always on the list of heading for a deployment, so I know he is always ready to go,” said American Red Cross of  Southwest Virginia’s executive director, Jackie Grant. 

Puckett tells WFXR News the devastation can be hard to take in.

“It was kind of a shock to see not only on the news, but see it in real life,” he said.

However, Puckett knows his work with the Red Cross is appreciated.

For instance one time in Louisiana, “we would be at the feeding spot at a certain time each day and this child made me a little necklace to help me out, hang around my neck, so that meant a lot too,” he recalled. 

It’s become more than volunteer work to Puckett.

“I don’t even think about it as helping. I’m just thinking that I’m one with them, trying to make it a better place,” he said. 

The American Red Cross is always in need of more volunteers. You can travel like Puckett, stay local with shelter services, become a blood donor ambassador.

You can find more information about joining the American Red Cross by following this link.