Day in the Life: Volunteer Services, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

It was about lunchtime when Jamie Winters walked in the Fresno Red Cross office. As usual, there was a flurry of activity and excitement in the air as volunteers and employees were prepping for a weekend full of fundraising and preparedness events throughout the chapter.

Jamie-VS2Jamie plays an important but often behind the scenes role in her local office. With over 90% of the Red Cross workforce ran by volunteers, an intricate database is needed to manage information like training, communications, and volunteer opportunities. Volunteer Intake Specialists like Jamie work with volunteers from the day they express interest in signing up all the way through their training and beyond. On this day Jamie was helping to prepare for an upcoming volunteer orientation.

“When they register and arrive for orientation, we have the opportunity to learn what each person is interested in, what programs would be a good fit for their skills, personalities and schedules while guiding those that may be unsure which direction they want to go,” said Jamie, “After the orientation ends and all questions are answered, these new volunteers continue forward on their path to volunteer success and fulfilling the Red Cross mission.”

Jamie made it to her cubicle and started up the computer. She checked her email and answered some volunteer questions before logging into Volunteer Connection to access the sign up list for the orientation. The list showed a wide range of new volunteers: from youth volunteers to retirees, part-time students to full-time workers, corporate executives to custom service associates.

“There is a common humanitarian cause that is threaded through all Red Cross members which makes working together flexible and fluid yet strong and determined,” said Jaime, “I have noticed instant trust in these groups and when we aim and focus on eliminating human suffering together, our own social barriers come down and we create synergy that transforms lives on a daily basis. To me, it doesn’t get much more memorable than that. The Red Cross mentality is something I will never forget, and will always carry with me.”

Jamie printed off her sign in sheet, collected the freshly printed volunteer manuals, and headed to the classroom for her orientation.

Jamie-VS1Volunteers like Jamie Winters play a large role in Red Cross efforts to provide humanitarian service in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 – 18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.

Day in the Life: CPR Class, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Hilary Swartz had just made her way into Fresno and was beginning to set up her classroom. The drive from her mountain home isn’t the shortest or the easiest, but she’s happy to do it in order to teach a new class of eager CPR students. She flicked on the lights and began lining up her practice manikins.

Hilary-PHSSHilary began volunteering with the Red Cross just a few months ago, but she is already a DAT responder and preparedness educator in addition to teaching CPR/AED/First Aid and babysitting courses. Like many volunteers, Hilary often goes above and beyond her normal duties. She’s known for taking her knowledge into her own, often hard to reach, rural community. Her proactive approach to education is what makes her a great volunteer.

“Our volunteers have so much passion for what they do,” said Alex Villa, Volunteer Services Officer, “Their infectious energy is what makes them such powerful ambassadors to the communities in which they work and live.”

Hilary’s passion for the Red Cross comes from personal experience. During Hurricane Sandy, her 90+ year old mother-in-law was evacuated to a Red Cross shelter where volunteers provided her and other residents with lodging, warm meals, and comfort items. Then last summer, her small mountain community faced disaster when a wildfire destroyed neighbors’ homes. Her house was spared, but Hilary saw Red Cross disaster response first hand in her town. It was enough to inspire her to get involved.

Hilary began to greet her students as they arrived to the Red Cross classroom, each with a handshake and warm smile. Some were there out of obligation for work, and others simply to learn a new skill. Either way, Hilary planned to inspire all of them to learn these new lifesaving skills and use them to make a safer community.CPR/AED First Aid Class

“One thing I enjoy about being an instructor is I learn something new each time I teach a class,” said Hilary, “I am then able to use that in upcoming classes, so I am always learning also!”

All of the students were seated – a full class – and Hilary fired up the projector.

“Ok! Who’s ready to save some lives?”

Instructors like Hilary are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian and public health services in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 -18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.

Day in the Life: Red Cross Club Blood Drive, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Blood Services Vehicles 2013The CSU Channel Islands campus was still quiet as Laurie Hurtado made her way to the library. She and other Red Cross Club members were there early to set up for their blood drive. All week they had been tabling in front of the library to sign students and faculty up for the big event.

Laurie came prepared with her club t-shirt and stack of forms. Together the group set up their table, complete with clipboards, balloons, and flyers.

Red Cross Club members like Laurie play an integral role in community outreach. From blood drives, to fundraising, to preparedness education, these clubs are a fun and energetic experience for high school and college students throughout the region. Red Cross Clubs also offer many opportunities for self-development, and empower students to build critical leadership skills.

“I have been a blood donor since 2005, so I was thrilled to become a club member at school and to have the opportunity to participate in other ways for the organization,” said Laurie, “Being a student nurse, I find that being a volunteer for the Red Cross enhances my education and leadership skills.”

Earlier in the week, Laurie and her fellow club members decorated a beautiful glass case display in the library to celebrate Blood Donation Awareness Week. Their engaging visuals, facts, and stories were starting pay off as students began to approach their table.

Utah State University Blood Drive 2012“My favorite part about being a Red Cross club member and volunteer is being an active member on my campus and in my community. I like spreading awareness about blood donations and encouraging people to donate,” said Laurie.

It was Laurie’s turn to make her own donation, one of more than 41,000 donations that are needed every day. She climbed into a chair and got ready. Just then a woman approached her and said thank you. The only reason she was alive was because of a blood transfusion she had years ago.

“Every time I get nervous about the needle stick, I think of that woman and how scared she must have felt when her life was in jeopardy. I am instantly humbled and no longer nervous.”

Red Cross Club members like Laurie are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian services in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12-18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.

Day in the Life: Public Affairs, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Cindy-PA2It was Cindy Huge’s birthday and she was looking forward to a relaxing day.

“Today is my birthday and I am going to sit with my feet up and read a book!” she posted on Facebook.

But as most Red Crossers know, a large disaster can change plans in an instant.

Her phone rang. It was dispatch requesting Red Cross assistance to a multi-family fire in Bakersfield. As both a Disaster Action Team Lead and Public Affairs volunteer, Cindy knew she had to respond – that book could wait. Within 5 minutes she was in the car and on her way.

“We quickly determined that this was going to be one long and busy day,” said Cindy, “Media was present, as they often are at large fires, along with many bystanders and of course the 30 clients.”

As the reporters and TV cameras arrived on scene, Cindy approached them and introduced herself. She assured the media that she would be available for interviews and thanked them for being present as well as respecting the clients’ privacy.Cindy-PA1

From last year’s Oso mudslide to Mississippi tornadoes and everything in between, Cindy has represented Red Cross Public Affairs for communities across Kern County and across the nation. But even when skies are blue, the Public Affairs team is still in action promoting events, blogging, taking pictures, or managing social media.

“There are so many little random acts of kindness you can do daily,” said Cindy, “and I encourage everyone to become engaged… you will be amazed at the number of wonderful people you will meet.”

Cindy continued to support the DAT response, coordinate with other Public Information Officers, and conduct media interviews. She assured the general public that the Red Cross was providing hope and comfort to the affected residents.

It was clear that her birthday plans had changed, but like so many other Red Cross volunteers, Cindy felt the need to support her community in times of disaster despite the personal sacrifice it meant.

Cindy Huge is part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian service in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12 – 18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.

Day in the Life: Disaster Action Team, 4:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.

Brey-DATIt was early in the morning when Jack and Linda got the call.  The sun wasn’t even out yet but The Breys were ready to leap into action. An overnight house fire had left a Santa Maria family of four without a home. Thankfully everyone made it out alive, but one family member had to go to the hospital. Jack and Linda got dressed, grabbed their supplies, and headed to the hospital to meet the family.

Like many others on the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT), the Breys are retired and were looking for ways to give back.

“We enjoy the feeling that we make a difference and can help people in our community,” they said.

DAT members stand ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist families that are facing emergencies like home fires. In Central California, that means DAT is responding an average of every 17 hours.

Jack and Linda arrived at the hospital where staff focused their attention on the injured family member. The Breys saw an immediate need to comfort the family’s youngest members.Floods, New Jersey 2007

“The children were very quiet and we just sat with them, got some snacks, and talked to them. I know they were comforted and it allowed the adults to deal with the injuries,” they said. A typical DAT call means providing lodging, food and clothing assistance. But the gift of hope and comfort is immeasurable to a family that just lost everything. “It’s the little things also that make a big difference.”

Jack and Linda worked with the family into the early morning hours providing not only comfort, but financial assistance to get them through the next few days and resources to help them start over. When the Breys left the hospital at 7:00 a.m. the warm rays of the morning sun were finally starting to peek over the hills – a fitting symbol for the fresh start they were able to give to a family in need.

DAT responders like the Breys are part of the more than 90% volunteer workforce that provides humanitarian service in the Central California Region. The Red Cross thanks and honors these selfless and compassionate every day heroes during National Volunteer Week, April 12-18. Click here to learn more about the “Day in the Life of a Volunteer” series.

Welcome to the new Red Cross Central California Region Blog!

We’re excited to begin this new adventure as a way to showcase the great work of our Red Cross team right here in Central California. You can look forward to stories, news, tips, and more from Red Crossers throughout or new ten county region. Submissions from volunteers, employees, clients and partners are encouraged, so if you have an idea for a blog, just let us know!

IMG_9590It’s no coincidence that we’re launching this blog during National Volunteer Week. Starting tomorrow, we’re sharing a series of stories to recognize different volunteers in our region who work every day to make Central California a safer and more resilient community.

“A Day in the Life of a Volunteer” will showcase the different roles that volunteers play during a typical day  with the Red Cross. From early morning disaster responses to fundraising and everything in between, volunteers make up well over 90% of the Red Cross workforce.

The volunteers featured in this series are real and their stories are based on true events. We hope it will give readers an inside glimpse at the day in a life of a volunteer, and inspire others to find ways to improve their own communities.20150328_110940

Make sure to enter your email address on this page and hit “follow” to get these amazing stories sent right to your inbox. Also take a moment to visit our Central California Instagram account for extra content that you won’t see anywhere else!

We look forward to sharing our Red Cross stories with you, and hope that you’ll join us on this blogging adventure!

Happy Reading,
Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications