Volunteers are the heart of the American Red Cross mission, arriving at the scene of devastating disasters to provide help and hope when all seems lost. During March is Red Cross Month, we honor these everyday heroes who support their neighbors, assuring families and individuals they are not alone in their hour of need.
“It’s an interesting thing when you pull up and they don’t have a blanket or maybe they had to run out of their house without shoes,” said Scott Vest, Red Cross volunteer. “The symbol of the Red Cross gives them comfort and understanding. It’s like pulling up with a giant billboard that says ‘we are here to help’.”
Like Vest, Marilyn Johnson also volunteers with the Bay Area Chapter.
“I have worked in the corporate world for over 30 years making a living and when I retired I wanted to make a difference and the Red Cross really enables me to do that,” said Johnson who was motivated to join the Red Cross after the tragic events of 9/11.
In recent years, Johnson has also deployed several times outside of the San Francisco area, traveling to Arizona in July 2013 to help those affected by wildfires and to the Gulf Coast to help prepare communities for Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
“People don’t seem to realize what we do in disasters,” said Johnson. “They think of Red Cross as being mainly a place where they donate blood. They don’t realize that we are called to respond to disasters where people are displaced and have no place to go.”
While we cannot always know when the call for help will come, we know the Red Cross will be on the frontlines of the emergency response because of the dedication of volunteers like Johnson and Vest.
“The reason you get out of a warm bed at night and go into the cold is because it’s part of what we do. Disasters don’t happen 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. And our clients don’t have needs just 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. The disaster calls are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”
These volunteers are heroes. They exemplify what is best about this country –That we are a nation, not defined by differences, but by our shared humanity and tremendous perseverance in the face of adversity.