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Blood, Sweat & Tears: Volunteer Sweat Equity Edition

Red Cross Volunteers
Red Cross disaster response volunteers detail why they help.

The American Red Cross covers everything from blood donations and health and safety here at home, to helping military members and disaster victims both home and abroad. Much of this work can boil down to one theme: blood, sweat and tears.

The Red Cross relies on generous donors, and people can chose to donate in different ways – volunteering is just one way to help.

Red Cross volunteers make it possible to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters every year, most of them home and apartment fires. In large and small disasters alike, volunteers help cover every aspect of a disaster recovery effort:

  • Volunteer Management: Assist with volunteer recruitment, placement, record keeping and recognition.
  • Disaster Services: Provide food, shelter, comfort and home for families affected by major disasters such as fire, hurricanes and tornadoes.
  • Disaster Action Team: Volunteers need to respond to single-family fires with a disaster action team supervisor.
  • Disaster Preparedness Presenter: Educate individuals and groups on how to be prepared before a disaster occurs.
  • Learn more about individual volunteers through inspiring stories of how they came on board and what makes their service worth the effort:

    PAYING IT FORWARD One Red Cross volunteer tells how her journey began: “On a cold winter night at 2:00 in the morning someone banged on my door and said my house was on fire. After calling 911 my neighbor took me in and these Red Cross volunteers with their white helmets came at 3:00 in the morning to help me. All I can remember is saying WOW, who are these people and where do I sign up. Been helping ever since.”

    A NEW CHAPTER The Bay Area Chapter captured new opportunities for one woman through the Red Cross:

    When carpal tunnel syndrome spelled the end of Berteenia Thomas’s career as a county caseworker, she translated what could have been an early retirement into a new chapter in her life of helping others.

    Just before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Thomas became a volunteer with the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, picking casework and recovery planning as just the place for her. Since then, the Berkeley resident has deployed on more than 10 national disaster assignments. She’s been among the thousands of volunteers filling out the Red Cross disaster crews providing assistance in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma as well as tornados in Alabama and floods in North Dakota.

    AN UNEXPECTED CALL Sandy Joslyn, a volunteer with the Louisiana Capital Area Chapter, was serving as the Disaster Action Team captain one Monday night in May when she received a 3:00 a.m. call from a familiar voice.

    Joslyn quickly mobilized to an apartment fire situation with a new volunteer in tow – her son, who made the call to Sandy after escaping the fire in his apartment complex.

    The fire destroyed a 12-unit apartment building, including her son’s third-story unit he had moved into less than a month before.

    Joslyn and the additional Red Cross volunteers who joined her over the next few hours provided assistance to 15 residents, including three children.

    Based on their needs, the residents received Red Cross services for food, clothing, shoes, air mattresses, personal care supplies and other guidance such as how to clean salvaged items and replace key documents such as driver’s licenses.

    “My Red Cross training prepared me for that phone call because I could do something to help,” Joslyn said. “I even pondered in my mind if this is why I was created – to save my son's heart.”

    YOUR TURN For the opportunity to put in your sweat equity, visit to find volunteer opportunities in your area.

    Tags: Volunteer.
    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.