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Professionals: The Red Cross Is for You

Red Cross Mental Health Teams Help People Cope During Disaster
A variety of volunteer talents help keep the Red Cross running.

Nursing. Public affairs. Social media. Management. However you make a living or build a passion, the American Red Cross is for you. Many people who want to give back to their community or fill extra time in their schedule look to the Red Cross to volunteer their time and talents.

NURSES Take registered nurse Phillip Bovender. He currently wears many hats, serving as the Red Cross Disaster Health Services lead for the Chesapeake Region, as a member of the Baltimore city/county disaster action team and as the state-appointed state nurse lead for Maryland. During his tenure, Bovender has taken on numerous responsibilities, not only supporting a region that responds to up to three fires a day, but also volunteering for deployment on national assignments—most recently with Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac.

He’s also credited with implementing an American Red Cross national student nurse program at Coppin State University and Salisbury University—in which every graduating senior from the Salisbury University School of Nursing will be qualified to work in a Red Cross shelter.

EVENT COORDINATION Planning events may be your strong suit, but it takes a special skill to pull off an event that has a lasting impact for those involved. Red Cross Service for the Armed Forces Program Outreach Coordinators at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany excel at just that. They developed an Amazing Race-style event for the Warrior Transition Battalion in Garmisch, Germany, which brought 110 warriors together, building confidence and leading one warrior to say, “This was the greatest day of my life. This event had me doing things that I didn’t think I could do anymore.”

In addition, a trip for 20 Warrior Transition Unit soldiers to attend the Paralympics Games in London showed what people are capable of doing even after a serious injury, in particular those wounded in combat. The outreach coordinators planned additional group trips, healing arts classes and events throughout the year that enabled hospital staff members to spend time with their colleagues.

TEACHERS AND TRAINERS If you have an aptitude for effectively sharing information with a group of people, consider becoming a Red Cross trainer. Trainers join a quality group of professionals who teach valuable lifesaving skills to more than 9 million people each year in businesses, schools and communities. Red Cross Disaster Response instructors train volunteers to respond to disasters in a variety of specialized roles. As a Health and Safety Instructor, you could teach community classes such as CPR, First Aid and water safety to children and adults.

MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS Many disaster volunteers augment the shelter and feeding work by focusing on emotional and mental health. Recently, mental health professionals from across the country deployed to Oso, Washington to help address grief, anxiety and any other support needs for those impacted by the mudslide. Disaster Mental Health volunteers have been a key part of the Red Cross response in any type of emergency, from the Boston Marathon bombings to widespread flooding in a community.

LAW, LANGUAGE AND LOCATION The Red Cross “prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies,” and in practice responds wherever those emergencies are and no matter who is involved. This means sometimes those affected don’t speak a familiar language, have experienced hardship or separation in the United States or overseas, or are dealing with other conflicts and emergency situations.

Opportunities exist at the Red Cross to lend a hand with core communication tasks like translating through the Language Bank, or helping individuals and families make connections through reconnecting families. This includes assisting in the international search for persons living overseas, in war-torn countries or thought to be living in your community.

If your interest lies more with International Humanitarian Law (IHL), you could volunteer to deliver presentations about the Geneva Conventions and their connections to current events. The Red Cross also promotes the Exploring Humanitarian Law curriculum for high schools and universities. Its adaptable resources give teachers easy-to-use information to bring alive lessons about human life and dignity.

Red Cross chapters across the country have a wide range of volunteer needs that could match with most professional skills. Additional descriptions and search tools are available on

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.