Michael Burke has been with the American Red Cross Connecticut Chapter since 1987. He joined the Red Cross as staff to educate the community during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since his return in 2012, he has been involved in Disaster Action Team responses, shelter operations, mental health services, client casework, canteen services, blood drive scheduling, government operations, and fundraising. “It’s that feeling of accomplishment. When you don’t get paid, it’s a whole different feeling,” Michael says. Michael takes every opportunity to increase his skill set through the trainings offered by the Red Cross. He believes “it’s important to be diversified in your role.” He wants the community to know the Red Cross saves lives by providing a level of stability to people affected by disaster that allows them to move toward regaining their independence. This point is evident in one of Michael’s most memorable moments with the Red Cross. A house fire had displaced the home’s only resident and left the structure unfit for occupancy. Michael explained how the Red Cross could be of assistance, but the client refused, considering the offered help as a handout. Michael was able to convince the client that there was no shame in accepting the assistance because what the Red Cross offers is not a handout, but a hand up.
Ginger Flynn has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross Connecticut Chapter since 1996 when she decided that is it was time she started giving back to her community. Since then, she has participated in various aspects of disaster response including Disaster Action teams, disaster volunteer coordination, supervisor-on-call training, client casework, sheltering, and instructing Disaster Service classes. “It’s important to me that I do the best I can and I encourage the volunteers I teach to do the best they can. I train volunteers to be multitaskers.” With all that she gives, what Ginger gains is the satisfaction of helping someone really in need. She thinks it’s important that people understand that the mission of the Red Cross is carried out primarily by volunteers and financed by donations from the American people. One of the reasons for Ginger’s dedication to the Red Cross is the camaraderie with her fellow volunteers, who she describes as “self-less”. Ginger plans to continue her work for the Red Cross because she is a firm believer that it is vital that everyone take the time to do something for someone else.
Lucian Terranova joined Red Cross in 2001 in response to the September 11th tragedy. Rick Knight became a volunteer in response to Hurricane Katrina. They met through their call to service during Hurricane Katrina where both were engaged in mass care in Houston. Lucian worked as shelter manager and, after a 2 minute no-frills conversation on shelter issues, he appointed Rick to shelter supervisor. The two men worked tirelessly to overcome the obstacles of mass care on the unprecedented scale. They were mutually impressed with the work ethic and dedication of the other. So focused on their responsibilities, interactions were strictly business. Months after their return from deployment, Rick sent Lucian an email thanking him for his leadership by example during the deployment. It was not until then that they realized they were both Connecticut residents and lived only a short distance from each other. The bond forged through shared experiences and an altruistic drive is still evident as both continue their work in disaster response here in Connecticut. “[Volunteering] is not something I do for accolades or pats on the back,” said Lucian. Lucian and Rick look back on their Katrina experience with mixed emotions but an overall sense of gratification. “The experience of helping people is so rewarding, it’s hard to explain,” says Rick.
Harvey Harpin has been providing the American Red Cross Connecticut Chapter with his volunteer services for the past 18 years. Over the years, Harvey has worked in various roles related to Disaster response both locally and on national deployments. Currently, he is focused on his roles as Bulk Distribution Manager and Disaster Workforce Administrator. Harvey takes pride in his volunteer service and says that one of the reasons for his longevity is the fact that the Red Cross provides leadership opportunities to volunteers. Volunteers have the chance to take ownership of a function and be accountable for it. Harvey wants the community to know about all the services provided by the Red Cross. His most memorable Red Cross moment took place during the 3 days he spent responding to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Of all the services he provided, he received the most gratification the evening he spent assisting in the distribution of hundreds of stuffed animals to the children of the community. When asked by non-volunteers if the time and effort he spends volunteering is worth it, he responds, “I have always felt that I get more than I give.”
Helen Jones has been an American Red Cross Connecticut Chapter Volunteer for Blood Services for 4 years. Having worked in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hartford Hospital, Helen was overwhelmed by the amount of blood products necessary to save lives and she wanted to help ensure the availability of dependable blood. Helen serves a Blood Services volunteer scheduler and also assists in all aspects of the drive to include registration and canteen services. She admits that the job has its challenges, but “[The Red Cross] is depending on you so somehow you’ve got to get the job done.” Helen’s future volunteer goal is to continue helping out as long as she can, however she can. She wants the community to see what really happens in the Red Cross; the detail that goes into accomplishing the mission of each service line. One her most memorable moments as a Blood Service volunteer took place during a blood drive at a local high school. One of the students wanted to help by giving blood but was very nervous about it. To calm her, Helen offered to hold her hand during the process. This simple yet significant act of comfort is one of many that remind Helen why she volunteers for the American Red Cross.